Programme Notes |Queens Park | 27 October 2018
I write my final notes for the programme at a very difficult time on the park. Last week’s loss to Formatine in the cup was not only a blow financially but one of the poorest results and performances in the club’s history. I share the disappointment and embarrassment felt by supporters. The manager John Brogan resigned following the game and I would like to wish him all the best for the future. John put his heart and soul into the job and fully respected the circumstances of the club in relation to finances and resources. His ideas to build a base of young players who would become a pool for the first team once they were deemed ready by Graeme Liveston was a sound one and would have paid dividends. But in the modern world time is a commodity rarely afforded people and results have to be delivered and immediately. It says a lot about how this idea is now in full force in football when John became the fourteenth manager change in the senior Scottish game since the start of the season. Nowadays Sir Alec Ferguson would be unknighted and would have been deemed a failure in the English game having been sacked in 1987 by Manchester United.
The search is now on for a new manager and the application process will have closed by the time you are reading these comments. The new person’s remit is a straightforward one: get us off and keep us off the bottom of League Two. If we can finish further up the league that would be a bonus. A difficult but not an impossible remit. As with previous appointments, the board will form an appointments panel who will recommend a candidate to the full board. We hope to have the new manager in place soon as we have a tough schedule of vital games coming up. Colin Mitchell and Scott Gemmell will take training and prepare the team for the Queen’s Park match. Our senior players Gary Fisher and Bryan Wharton also have a crucial role at this difficult time.
An announcement will be made next week about the new chairman as I stand down as interim chairman at the end of October.
As I have said previously I view my time as chairman as a privilege and firmly believe that the club is in a much stronger and stable place than in the summer of 2016. But I am sure there will be those who will disagree forcibly with that view. The main issue the club has is a dearth of income. Unlike many clubs we don’t have a generous donor who puts significant amounts of money into the club nor do we have hospitality facilities like some other clubs which brings in significant funding to many of our rivals.
As I step down as interim chairman I would like to put on record my thanks to a number of people who deserve the thanks and recognition by all involved at the club. Firstly, the people who volunteer to do many of the jobs necessary to keep the club going: they paint, clean, repair, produce programmes, sell half time draw tickets, run the supporters trust, see to health and safety etc. They do their work quietly and look for no recognition. They are heroes to a person. To my fellow directors who are a skilled and dedicated group who without reward and often to their cost do the many jobs required to keep a club operating in the modern business and football environment. To the small band of our supporters who see themselves as unofficial ambassadors of the Rovers by pestering every contact they have to put sponsorship into the club. Lastly, I would like to record the club’s thanks to Reigart Ltd without whom the Rovers would very likely have disappeared from the football scene years ago.
The Rovers supporters are a great bunch and I look forward to all sections of the club pulling together and getting behind the team as we battle to get off the bottom of the league.
Programme Notes |Formartine United | 20 October 2018
Today we welcome Formartine United to the Reigart Stadium for our Scottish Cup second round tie. This is the first time we have taken part at this stage for a few seasons as our League One status allowed us the luxury of not entering the competition until round 3 in November. A tradition of staying away from cup games has grown in UK football with fans opting not to attend cup matches in significant numbers. I have always found that hard to understand as from my earliest days as a Rovers fan I always looked forward to the cup draw and matches with an expectation that I rarely felt for run of the mill league games. I can’t quite explain this but probably it was due to the opportunity to dream, even for a short while, of a cup run along the lines of that of season 1919/1920. Also, it often threw up the chance to play against teams we rarely or ever came up against and the chance to visit grounds that weren’t on the league schedule. Often it involved ‘interesting’ trips to exotic places on the supporters’ bus such as Inverness, Hawick, Coldstream, Glasgow University, Civil Service Strollers (best stovies I have ever eaten)… I’m sure my contemporaries of Grant Cullen, Pat Darlington, Peter Loughran, Sam Gemmell, Brian Nugent etc could provide interesting stories of these and other away days. The other side of the romance of the cup is that teams like the Rovers are vulnerable to upsets from teams from lower leagues as we have found to our cost over the years: Banks of Dee and Whitehill Welfare spring to mind. I’m sure fans can think of other bad days. Looking on the bright side we can remember days when the Rovers were the giant killers in cup games. I still recall our recent victory against premier league Motherwell and our heroic draw against Rangers at Ibrox. Let’s hope our cup memories this season are of the latter variety.
Our last 3 games have shown some signs of improvement with a draw at Cowdenbeath, a home victory against Stirling and a defeat at Annan. In these results there are some signs that the team is beginning to gel and become competitive at this level. I hope that the improvement continues with a victory today and our progress to round 3 of the cup. This is the first of 2 very important games with next week’s league game at home to Queen’s Park giving us a chance to close the gap on the group of teams above us in the league.
This week has seen the stadium host a number of events: the October Holiday Football Camp run by former player Sean Higgins and upwards of 20 kids each day enjoying first class coaching in an enjoyable and encouraging environment (it would be great to think that some of these youngsters may in a decade or so turn out for their local club), the supporters’ trust meeting on Thursday night and the memories group on Friday lunchtime. It is important that the stadium is used more than match once a fortnight.
In my recent programme notes I have addressed issues raised by fans and will continue to do this and would encourage anyone who has further points to raise to let me know and I will get back to them with a response.
Programme Notes | Stirling Albion 29 September 2018
It is unusual to describe a game before the end of September and before the end of the first quarter of matches as vital but I believe this is an accurate description of today’s game against Stirling Albion.
A positive result is crucial for us to keep in touch with the teams above us and to begin the move away from the bottom of the league.
There are some clear signs that the team is beginning to gel and becoming more competitive in League 2. Between now and the end of October we have 3 league games and a second round Scottish Cup tie at home against Formartine United. At that point we will have a more accurate picture of where we are and our prospects for the season.
As a board we will support any suggestions the manager has for strengthening the squad. Obviously, this has to be done within the budget we can afford.
It has been mentioned that we received new sponsorship money this season from the naming rights of the stadium and from NLC Suicide Prevention having their logo on the back of the tops. What also has to be factored in is the loss of 6 good gates from games against the full-time clubs in League One last season and the cut in money from the SPFL due to our relegation. Then we have had large unexpected costs which have impacted on the budget in ensuring the stadium meets ground safety requirements and bringing our floodlights up to SPFL standards. So, any ‘new’ money is quickly taken account of.
On the club message board, it has been rumoured that there have been moves to replace the current directors by other parties. I can confirm that there have been no direct or indirect formal or informal moves along these lines. As a board we have a duty to consider any offers that would benefit the club but nothing has happened in this area. It would be brilliant if there are people out there willing to invest in the club both financially and by putting time into the running of the club.
We have been constantly asked by a small number of people about the appointment of John Brogan to the manager’s post. We invited applications, formed an appointments panel including 2 people who had played football at senior level and then conducted interviews. John got the job on merit. All 4 candidates interviewed were made aware of the budget available for players and outlined their plans for putting a team together with the finances available. John has greatly impressed by his dedication to the post and his understanding of the particular challenges at a club like the Rovers.
All the decisions made by the board have been and will be made for the overall good of the club and made on the basis that no one or nothing is bigger than the club itself. If difficult decisions have to be made they will be made for the overall good of the club.
Unfortunately, due to fixture timings, we will not be able to mark Show Racism the Red Card initiative at the Reigart Stadium in the coming weeks but it is an event the club fully supports as racism continues to be a blight on our society and our sport even if it bubbles under the surface more so than in the past.
A bright spot at the club at the moment is the good start our reserve team has made in League 2. We followed the manager’s advice in having a reserve team as John thought it would serve the overall squad best if fringe players, those coming back from injury and trialists could play competitive games instead of a series of friendlies throughout the season. There are costs associated with running a reserve team but these are largely met by an SPFL payment for participating in this league and it also looks likes the decision is paying dividends in football terms.
Well done to our 50-year-old mascot today: happy birthday to Ian Lochhead aka the Prof. Apologies to Ian for the fact that supporting the Rovers for so many years has led to him having so many grey hairs.
Also, thanks to Davie Shanks for sponsoring today’s game. Davie’s family and company are great supporters of the club.
Here’s to a victory today. Enjoy the match.
Programme Notes | Berwick Rangers 01 September 2018
Our extremely poor start to the season has everyone connected with the club worried and this afternoon a positive result is required to begin the necessary climb away from the foot of the League 2 table. As a fan, I can share in the disappointment felt after the performance at Hampden. A heartening performance against Elgin seemed to suggest a corner had been turned but last week was a step backwards. Our current situation is being taken very seriously by the BOD: please be assured of that.
As has been shown at many other clubs, as soon as things are going badly on the pitch every aspect of the club is put under scrutiny. Even aspects nothing to do with the football side of things become open for comment and criticism.
It is my firm belief that the club is being well run in a professional manner. I have heard that there is a demand for answers. I am not entirely sure of what the questions are but I will try to address some of the themes that some people are raising on social media.
My point about the club being run as well as at any time in the past is based on the constant scrutiny we get from outside bodies and the results of that. Over a year we have to gain a safety certificate from the local council, a licence from the SFA, have to undergo a financial review by our bank, directors have to be approved by Companies House, the club has to undergo a full audit by our accountants and have the accounts scrutinised by an AGM. These are not mere paper exercises but rigorous processes all of which we have come through. All of this with a budget that cannot be described as huge and a stadium that is 99 years old. Many of the people who are charged with scrutinising the above aspects of the club comment on the steady improvement in a number of areas.
We have given the manager the highest budget we can afford and are grateful to the Supporters’ Trust and the squad fund for their help in augmenting this. In addition to the players’ budget, there are numerous costs to keep the club going and it is important that the BOD does not spend money we don’t have.
Comments have been made about the composition of the board and people leaving their roles as directors. The current board is 8 strong, working in a hands-on fashion to ensure the club runs smoothly. This year 5 people have joined the board and 2 have left. I would rather focus on the contributions of the serving directors rather than a few people who have left for reasons they have asked to remain private.
One topic of online discussion has centred on the appointment of the manager. An appointment panel of 4 directors was chosen to make the decision. After the closing date for applications the panel chose 4 candidates to see at interview and John Brogan was offered the post. 2 of the panel had experience of playing senior football.
A piece of advice the club was given by an online poster was to maximise our commercial income. A few years ago, photographs show hardly an advertising board at the ground. That trend was reversed by the late Gordon Dishington and our current Commercial Manager, Dianne Leslie, does a great job in bringing in much needed income from commercial activity in what is a challenging market. Someone once said the toughest job they ever had was to be Rovers’ Commercial Manager. We are happy to welcome North Lanarkshire Suicide Prevention Team as the sponsor for the back of our tops and we were delighted our long-term sponsors Reigart took on the stadium naming rights in a three-year deal. At last year’s AGM it was noted that the income from commercial deals had been much higher than previous seasons.
Over the summer the players have been training at the stadium but will now switch to St Ambrose HS 3 G pitch from the start of September. John is happy for fans to come up to St Ambrose either on a Tuesday or Thursday to see the players in training
To conclude, people are completely free to comment, express their opinions and to offer criticism. I know much of this comes from people who have supported the club for years, attend matches and buy season tickets, merchandise etc. I respect their views and take them very seriously. If there are any other points you wish me to cover just let me know and I will do my best to answer your points.
Here’s to a good performance and positive result today
Programme Notes | Elgin City 18 August 2018
The start of the season has been really challenging, frustrating and disappointing. I can understand the emotions of the fans and support their right to express their feelings as to the disappointing run of results in the first few league games as well as the cup games. I know John and his backroom team are working tirelessly to knit an almost entirely new squad into an entertaining and successful team. The squad has been added to through four loan signings and the hope is that the team settles soon and starts to put points on the board and starts to rise up the league table. There were certainly signs in the first half at Ainslie Park on Tuesday that things were beginning to take shape on the park and I hope that continues today and we are celebrating our first win of the season at ten to five.
Fans are entitled to voice their opinions. In many cases they have supported the club home and away over a lot of years, in addition to sponsoring players, buying season tickets, attending fundraising events and so on. The fans are the lifeblood of the club and as chairman I am fully aware of that.
However, one question I would raise is how worthwhile signalling out individual players for criticism is. Let’s get behind the team and if they underperform then the criticism should be collective: including the Board of Directors
A few people have asked me about my position. I took on the role as chairman in June 2016, 2 days after I retired after a 40-year career in education. My plan was to put my heart and soul into the job for 2 years and then hand over to someone else and start my retirement two years later than planned. The board has asked me to stay on in the meantime as interim chairman to allow more time on the decision as to my successor. When that decision is taken I will continue as a director and give the board and the new chairperson the benefit of my experience gained over the last two years. The fact we have a board of 8 is a marked improvement on having just 3 directors as there is a significant amount of work involved in running a football club these days.
In times of challenge much more can be gained from sticking together than pulling apart and I would urge all involved at the Rovers to do just that and continue to back the team.
Programme Notes | Peterhead 11 August 2018
Today we will hold a minute’s applause for life long fan Jim Brown who died a few months ago. We extend a warm welcome to members of Jim’s family to today’s match and offer the condolences of the club at this difficult time. Jim had been a supporter of the club for over 75 years and was one of the last few of our fans to have memories of the Rovers stretching back to the Second World War and Jock Stein’s time at Cliftonhill. Jim, like many fans, had his favourite spot to watch the match. His was to the left of the tunnel looking across to the dugouts. Jim will be missed by the group who call that part of the ground their own. Jim’s loyalty to the wee Rovers was not only shown in his buying of a season ticket year on year but he was also often one of a small band of fans who attended away matches at all parts of Scotland from his home in Denny. I clearly remember Jim getting out his car at many points on the Scotland lower leagues football map. Like all Rovers fans, Jim left many games frustrated by performances and/or results but next week he was there again travelling miles to places like Forfar, Arbroath or Berwick to cheer on the team. One of Jim’s main points was that the manager should be making sure that our forwards should get extra shooting practice. This statement was often said just after one of our forward line had burst through on an attack only to launch the ball towards the roundabout at Coatdyke. When I became chairman Jim would often ask me for assurance I had passed on this piece of wise advice to the management team. Jim will be missed and sadly another link with the club’s past has gone.
I think Jim would have something to say on our lack of goals so far this season and a fitting tribute would be for the team to score today and kick start our league campaign with a good performance and result against Peterhead who are the bookies favourites to win League Two. It takes time for an almost new team to gel together and I’m sure results will improve soon. Thanks to the fans who helped get the stadium ready for the new season and to the members of the Thursday Club who work hard every week to keep the ground in shape. Of the many strengths the club has, our great volunteers are one of the best.