Natalie Christopher gives first interview as Blackpool chairwoman

Christopher pictured with her father Owen Oyston
Christopher pictured with her father Owen Oyston
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Natalie Christopher has given her first public interview since becoming Blackpool’s chairwoman in January.

READ MORE: Blackpool discover League Cup third round opponents

Natalie Christopher has given her first interview as Blackpool chairwoman

Natalie Christopher has given her first interview as Blackpool chairwoman

Speaking to BBC Radio Lancashire in the first of a two-part interview, Christopher revealed that the football club is no longer up for sale.

She said her father Owen Oyston, who still owes £25m to Valeri Belokon, will only relinquish control if he has no other option.

She discussed a whole range of other topics, including Gary Bowyer’s resignation, the club’s search for a new manager, the fans’ boycott and the current situation regarding the Squires Gate training ground.

On Gary Bowyer’s resignation

Christopher says she wasn't going to stand in Bowyer's way

Christopher says she wasn't going to stand in Bowyer's way

“Being a manager is an all-consuming position. Looking at it closely, as I have done in the last month, you’ll notice he missed a pre-season friendly which is not like Gary.

“He’s there for his lads and he’s always been at everything.

“He’s had some personal commitments he’s had to attend to and that’s been something that’s played a big part in his decision to go and we have to respect that.

“When you’re a manager you’re not just looking after them on a Saturday on the pitch, you’re not just looking after them on the training pitch, you’re a father figure really and an important role in their lives. So I see it as a seven day-a-week job. Manager’s have their own families as well.

Christopher was full of praise for the job Terry McPhillips has done

Christopher was full of praise for the job Terry McPhillips has done

“He was a great guy and he’s put us in a great position. We’ve signed some new players as you will have seen and I can only wish him the best and thank him for what he has done to date.

“I think he had made up his mind on what he wanted to do - his family came first and I’ve got to respect that and let him do what he wants to do and be where he needs to be and concentrate on that.”

Search for a new manager

“There’s been hundreds of CVs from all sorts of people, some of them have a lot of experience and some of them less so.

“I’ve spoken to, in person, a handful of people and obviously we’re speaking to Terry because he’s done a great job for us in stepping up and looking after them.

“There have been a couple of people (who have been ruled out) and we’re down to a shortlist and next week we’ll confirm who the manager will be.

“I’ve had a lot of emails of support for Terry. He’s got on with it, he knows the players and he’s continued in the style we had previously so it’s familiar, it’s comfortable.

“They’ve been training well and it’s been a solid start.

“It would be nice to get three points (at Walsall), wouldn’t it? But I’ll speak to Terry on Monday and we’ll have a chat about things. Terry will be first person to know about what is happening.”

Seeking McPhillips’ advice in search for new players

“Terry is really experienced in this industry and he’s been in it for many years - he’s got a good eye for players.

“He goes himself, he was at a match last night and he puts his heart and soul into it.

“I’ve got to be guided by him because I’m not a football manager.”

Seeking advice to recruit a manager

“Of course. I’ve been around the football club for a long time but I’ve had no serious involvement.

“So I’ve spoken to a lot of people here and I’ve had a lot of messages from supporters - I’ve been lucky.

“You have a bit of a gut instinct with people, you sit with them and they show something a bit special and you see something - you’ve got to go with your gut.”

Has Owen Oyston played an active role in the interview process?

“He’s been here for 33 years and it’s his money that has kept it going for 33 years so I think it would be wrong of me not to seek his opinion.

“We can have a good debate, more of a debate than you normally would if you were working for someone. It’s a bit different when you’re family. We’ll probably argue it out.

“We always disagree but we usually find a solution.”

How have you found the role?

“I was born here, I love it and I feel like a football club should be the hub of the community.

“I’ve been involved previously and I’m sure there have been some mistakes in the past, but some good things too.

“I know it will take time and some people will probably never come around, but I would like to be open to anyone who wants to come back and I would like the football club to be the hub of the community again.

“I don’t blame anyone for having an opinion and for voicing it. We live in England and that’s what we’re lucky enough to do.

“It’s an honour to be in this position. The club is 133 years old or something like that, I’m proud to be involved and if I can get just a few people to come back - they don’t have to like me - but just to support the team is what I’d like people to do and to just really give me a chance to show them that they will be listened to and supported.

“We’re a small town and it would be nice if we could be as one, rather than at the moment where we’re a little bit torn apart, aren’t we?”

Return of boycotting fans

“I think some people won’t come back and I would hope others will change their minds when they see some progress and see things going in the right direction.

“I plan to spend a bit of time with the fans, if they’ll have me. I don’t mind taking a bit of abuse and listening to a few opinions as long as they will do the same and listen to what I’m trying to do.

“I want them to enjoy the football and I want them to feel it is somewhere to come. I want to try, I don’t think there’s any other way but to try.

“If you can’t convince people, you’ve done your best and that’s all you can do.”

Is the club still up for sale?

“No, not at all. The reality is I don’t think Owen felt there was another way forward.

“Whatever people think of him, good or bad, he does love the club and I think he’d be devastated not to be a part of it anymore.

“In an ideal situation for him, he’d like to be able to agree a settlement and find the money and move on from this.

“He’ll only sell if he absolutely has to.

“If, financially, someone comes along and they can afford to pay the wages and look after it for the next 100 years, it might be a consideration.

“It’s not his first choice but he’s not going to see it come to any harm if he can help it.”

Squires Gate training ground

“We’re going to do the best we can at the moment to get it back up and running again and as soon as we are financially settled, this will be the first thing to invest in.

“I think we can get some showers and a few basic things in there in the short term.

“When, as I say, we’re financially in a position to do so we will put it first on the list because it’s overdue, isn’t it?

“It’s important they are comfortable and have a good place to train, which at the moment they have. They’ve got a decent place.

“I think that’s the main thing for me, that they’re okay for now and we’ll move forward with a better training ground in the future.

“But in the short term we will get it as best as we can for them so they can get back there and get on with using their own training ground.

“I think we will be there (Fulwood) for another month or so and then we’ll hope to bring the lads back here.

“Then we can look to do something about the problem longer term, as it needs quite a bit of investment.”

- Part two of the interview will be aired between 6pm and 8pm tomorrow.