And The Clear Out Begins
Thoughts on an eventful week so far at S6

The game against Forest was a very odd experience! It was not helped by the failure of the I-follow system to allow anyone to log-in. I started watching it on the phone app, as that let me in first, and then on the TV. I suppose it will feel a bit better as we get more used to it, and I fully accept that circumstances dictate that it has to be like this, but it isn’t something I would want to be my regular football experience! As for the match; I though we did more than ok in that we were the side that deserved to win it, the attitude looked much better, we used the width well and moved the ball positively. The final ball was too often a disappointment and we missed a couple of chances that could have put us in control. But overall, it was something to build on if the players can maintain that attitude and those standards, and then add a bit of quality in the final third. Team selection communicated a message about who might be going or staying from the squad, which was confirmed when the club announced on Wednesday the strongly expected departures of Hutchinson and Winnall (without offers being made to them) and Fletcher, Forestieri and Fox, all three having rejected the offers made. With Lee, Nuhiu and Paul Jones signing extensions till the end of the 19/20 season on 22 July. David Bates will go at the end of June, but we are negotiating for the loan extensions of Da Cruz, Wickham, Murphy and Windass. This is on top of the departure of 8 players from the Under 23 squad. The re-structuring has commenced. The only end of June departure with whom I have any emotional connection with is Hutch – he has offered a lot to the club and his bravery around mental health issues has been outstanding. I can accept that something might not have been right in his relationships with two managers but he leaves with our best wishes and owing us nothing.

It has been reported, by the usually well-informed John Percy from the Daily Telegraph, that our Disciplinary Commission hearing commenced on 22nd June. For me, the FFP rules are a genuine attempt to control silly expenditure by clubs that moves clubs them into the land of unsustainability. There is a real problem in the Championship with how the FFP rules interact with parachute payments and higher allowable losses for relegated PL clubs; it creates a 2-speed league and I agree the system needs to change. But these are the rules that clubs voted for despite how problematic they are. The spending on wages at our club has moved us into a direct clash with the FFP rules which our owner has sought to avoid by selling the stadium to a company he set up. The club claim this was approved by officials at EFL, this was under the old regime of Shaun Harvey the then Chief Executive. Some other clubs believe that EFL did not properly apply its own rules in our case and threatened legal action. A new EFL regime under Chairman Rick Parry brought charges against the club and individuals, including Mr Chansiri, something the club claimed was unlawful. An Arbitration process took place to resolve this dispute which resulted in the charges against individuals being dropped but those against the club proceeding. This led to the hearing which has commenced this week and will be determined independently of EFL.

The Disciplinary Commission has powers to impose fines and/or points deductions depending upon guilt being determined and the behaviour of the club, a maximum deduction of 21 points is possible. A large points deduction has the potential to put us into a relegation battle. It is to be hoped that the club is found not guilty, or the sanction for guilt is a mild one, which would mean that we can start the 20/21 season (whenever that is) in the Championship. A major re-structuring of the squad and the wages budget is needed for the future and that will be easier to achieve in the Championship rather than in League One. Playing in League One would result in a significant drop in turnover and a still too high wages budget for the league, and a consequent clash with the different FFP regime in that league, all this would have major implications for the club. Even if we are found not guilty of the alleged breaches of FFP rules the club will still be in a situation whereby major retrenchment is needed, and we will not own the stadium that we call home. That will be due to the approach that has been taken in the past with regard to player recruitment, player sales (lack of), the large wages budget, and action not taken to retrench in Summer 2017 after the play-off defeat to Huddersfield when it was clear we were heading for potential FFP problems.

There are signs that lessons have been learnt from our recent history. The recruitment team has been strengthened, the law is being laid down about what is expected of the players and we have started the long overdue process of moving players out to create space for hopefully some younger, hungrier and cheaper players. I would also look to sell Tom Lees and Keiron Westwood who both look like they might need a fresh start and change of scene. Jordan Rhodes has been a major disappointment too but moving him on might prove to be tricky – I constantly hope though that he will rediscover the goal scorer he used to be. “Live in Hope and die is Castleton” as they say in Derbyshire. Onwards to the Bristol game, and maybe more dramatic announcements before then?

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