As Blackpool take-on Shrewsbury tomorrow, a familiar face will come up against the Seasiders in former club secretary Matt Williams.
The popular administrator is now Chief Executive at Shrewsbury, and gives us the lowdown on life away from Bloomfield Road.
Promotion in your first season was a pretty good start at Shrewsbury, how’s it gone there?
When I met the Shrewsbury Chairman he and the entire club were at a low ebb, they had just been relegated to League Two and had lost their iconic manager Graham Turner four months previously which was a factor in their relegation. The club didn’t appear to be engaging with the supporters or have a great relationship with the local media and community, so I knew it was going to be a tough job, but one I relished.
We had to rebuild the entire playing squad as we only had seven players under contract when I began at the club, we sold one (Jon Taylor to Peterborough) and terminated two (Dave Winfield and Tam Makindawire). We then went on to recruit 17 new players, but we did our business early which allowed Micky and the coaching staff the chance to work with the squad and allow them to “gel” ready for the new season. To be promoted at the end of the season had always been the aim but was nonetheless a fantastic achievement and testament to the hard work of everyone at the club
The first thing you did is appoint Micky Mellon, how important a decision was that?
I had met Micky Mellon several times during my time at Blackpool, we often recall the time Ollie told the players he wanted to do some video work after training one day and put a DVD of Coach Carter on! But I saw Micky in the press room at Elland Road in the April before I left and he did impress, he spent a lot of time telling me how he had been studying for his pro licence and how he’d spent time learning management theory practiced by Toyota as well as other sports, so when I met with the Shrewsbury Chairman I suggested Micky, who had expressed an interest in creating something here. The Shrewsbury Chairman needed a little bit of persuasion, as other than the Fleetwood role, Micky wasn’t someone he really knew a lot about, so I managed to get Ian Holloway, David Flitcroft and Sam Allardyce to vouch for him and it I’m delighted that he proved to be the right man for the job.
Micky has a policy of not signing a player until he has met them and in our first close season, we must have met 50 or 60 players to explain the way we wanted to work both on and off the pitch. He also likes to play football the right way and he reminds me very much of Ollie in that sense. It was also vital that we appointed a manager who didn’t simply bring his mates as coaching staff as we had a more than capable assistant manager in Michael Jackson, a great goalkeeper coach in Danny Coyne and a fantastic physio in Chris Smith. We added Mike Vernon as our analyst, he had previously worked for a brief spell at Blackpool before moving on to Burnley, and Lytham based Andy Hodgen who came over very well at his interview.
I don’t suppose there will be many people left who you know when Pool arrive in Shrewsbury on Saturday?
There’s been a lot of change since I left on and off the field, but I still speak to Richie Kyle and Ciaran Donnelly on the football side of things, Richie has obviously been promoted to the first team since I have left and I saw Ciaran watching our Youth Team against Fleetwood the other Saturday morning. Phil Horner is still the physio there and I think the company accountant Rod Dyer is coming down. I’m also looking forward to seeing the lads from the media office as well as the likes of BBC Radio Lancashire’s Ian Chisnall, Radio Wave’s Damian Collins and of course the Gazette’s Will Watt! I have taken a table in our hospitality lounge to invite some friends who are Pool supporters including Terry Alcock who tells me he is looking forward to trying Shrewsbury’s real ale!
There was talk you almost returned to Blackpool in the summer, was there any truth in that?
When Ollie was being linked with a return I think he said some complimentary things about me and the role I played at the club and people put two and two together. I did have a couple of opportunities to return to the North West but they weren’t right for me. I have a great job at a fantastic club and it is always flattering to be talked about for roles at other clubs, it means I am doing something right. I want to keep moving Shrewsbury forward and when and if I leave I want to be able to say that Shrewsbury Town is in a better place than it was when I walked through the door.
What do you feel about what’s going on at Blackpool, do you keep an eye on it?
It is always sad to see any football club struggling and I feel for the supporters of which my wife is one. I had 12 fantastic years at the club and have a lot of friends who are Pool fans, I was at a wedding the other Saturday where the theme was Tangerine and White and again it just showed how much Blackpool FC means to so many. One thing I have been reminded of being at Shrewsbury and working so closely with the various supporters groups is how much the clubs means to them and their families and local businesses. A football club is a community asset, it brings families and people together, for example, it was one of the few things my wife’s family did together, but even they have found other ways to spend their Saturday afternoons now. Getting those supporters back is going to be a hard job. At Shrewsbury last season, having been relegated from League One people weren’t interested in coming to see the likes of Dagenham, Accrington and Stevenage and yet we were playing some great football and in the top six for the majority of the season. Football isn’t like any other business, yes you can apply basic business principles which many clubs don’t, but without the supporters a football club is nothing.
Do you think you’ll ever be back working at Bloomfield Road again?
Although I still live on the Fylde and will always be fond of the club that holds so many great memories for me at the moment it’s a no – but I’d never say never.