Chairman with end-of-season address
THE following statement appears in tonight's Albion News match day magazine:
GOOD evening everyone and welcome to our last home game of the season and an opportunity for me to offer my thanks on behalf of all at the club for the wonderful support you have provided.
It has been another difficult and demanding season but great credit goes to the players and the coaching staff in reaching safe haven with these two games remaining.
Naturally, we had hoped for better when we set off back in August optimistic that we had properly addressed the problems that had contributed to one of the least enjoyable campaigns in my experience in the previous season.
Sadly, by the turn of the year we were drifting once more into peril. It is one of the burdens of this position to take tough and unpleasant decisions and any change of Head Coach comes into that category.
Once again, I thank Alan Irvine for his efforts and regret that the tide of results went against him. But I cannot praise highly enough the performance of Tony Pulis since then.
A team which had won only once in the previous nine matches before his arrival has garnered 24 points from the 17 games to have followed. That is testament to the relentless intensity he brings to the challenge.
We were badly winded, I know, by that miserable double-header at Villa Park after which it took us a while to get our breath back. But the recent results, topped by the notable victory at Old Trafford, have steered us to safety despite a quite extraordinary effort from the teams below us in the league.
Undoubtedly, another summer of change now beckons. Tony will have the opportunity to address the playing squad more fully and re-shape it into something more akin to his own specifications. He may not be able to do all he wants in one summer and this may in time become a transitional step towards a more finished article. But I am sure you share with me supreme confidence in the strength of leadership we now have in the Head Coach’s office.
We have commenced a process of re-structuring the recruitment department where there is further work to be done. And there will be a re-focusing at Under 21 level where I know Tony is keen to give opportunity and development to a younger age group in the hope that they can progress more swiftly to first-team levels.
It is only right I bring you up to date on my own future too. Since announcing in February that I was taking the club to the investment market, I am sure you have read media speculation about interested parties in contact over a possible purchase.
That process remains on-going and as of this moment, those parties are conducting due diligence on the club. But let me once again stress that I do not intend this to become a long-running saga which could become counter-productive to our preparations for next season. Indeed, those preparations are now underway with a progressive dialogue over targets for the summer.
It is also right to say that, in the discussions that I have conducted with those parties, there is a uniform view about committing to the management model which I believe has served the club so well.
In short, if there is a change of ownership, the transition should be smooth and devoid of upheaval. Business will continue as normal.
I realise we are closing this campaign having announced rises in our season ticket prices which has inevitably drawn some criticism from some quarters. It is not something the club would have introduced had we not felt it necessary in the quest for West Bromwich Albion to remain as competitive as possible in a domestic league which is relentless in its advances.
But I challenge you to find a Premier League club which has been more sensitive to the pound in the pocket of our supporters. This is the 10th anniversary of the Great Escape and our season ticket holders behind both goals who gathered on that momentous day were paying more than they will be next season. Our adult prices for next season will still be 10 per cent lower than a decade ago.
We are mindful of our roots as a club and the community which surrounds it and we remain one of the lowest-priced clubs in the top two divisions.
As things stand, I do not know if this will be my last Hawthorns game as chairman. But I am proud of the fact that when everyone returns next August, Albion will be going into its sixth successive Premier League campaign and the 10th since I became chairman.
I believe we have made good progress during those years but our beloved old club faces more and even greater challenges in the future. I know it will do so with the devotion and backing of our supporters at its side and as long as that remains the case, West Bromwich Albion will always be in good hands.