“We have much about which to be satisfied although there is never room for complacency"
CHAIRMAN John Williams stressed the Club’s commitment to progressing its Premier League challenge and filling The Hawthorns in an end-of-season message to Baggies fans.
Writing in the matchday programme for the final home game of the season against Chelsea, Williams hailed the efforts of Tony Pulis, his support staff and the players for sustaining for so long a position “topping the one division in this League we could realistically hope to – the group of clubs clustered outside the top seven.”
He said: “We have much about which to be satisfied although there is never room for complacency.
“This year could have been much more difficult with a change of ownership, chairman and senior management to accommodate. Thankfully, the transition has been as smooth as we could have hoped for.
“Our relationship with Guochuan Lai and our Chinese stakeholders is strong and positive and we are in regular contact. He has trusted the board, particularly regarding football matters, and his enthusiasm and support are infectious – as our supporters have witnessed when he attends home games.
“We want to do well for him and, of course, all our fans.
“However, his enthusiasm is sensibly balanced by his clear statement at the outset that Albion would not spend beyond its means and jeopardise the Club’s long-term security.
“While our final budget will depend upon on our finishing position, there will be funding consistent with our plan to improve the squad in every transfer window. We shall have to be focused, clever and diligent; recruitment continues to be a vital function at the club.
“As has been made clear by Tony and myself, our target this summer will be to find a number of additions who can make a tangible impact at first-team level.
“In the last year, we have had considerable returns from our investments in Matt Phillips, Nacer Chadli, Allan Nyom, Jake Livermore and Hal Robson-Kanu. The first four are regular first-choices; Hal’s impacts from the bench have been invaluable.
“If we are successful in adding a similar number of new players in this window who can improve our overall strength then that would represent a significant overhaul of the senior squad in the past 12 months.
“Results on the pitch will always be the critical measure of a club’s well-being but not the only one. It is important for our broader development that we continue to build deep ties with our immediate community while continually looking further afield to grow our appeal, our profile and our audience.
“I have been truly heartened by what I have discovered within the club’s community activities. In March, one of the highlights of my first year was to attend the Albion Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebration dinner and witness first hand the inspiring stories surrounding this arm of the club.
“It is this sort of open, welcoming engagement which only recently saw us launch our Apna Albion fans group with its special reach to the Sikh community in our area. We will endeavour to bring more and more of these kind of initiatives to our operations in the future.
“Compared to the Albion, some clubs continue to enjoy huge additional revenues from commercial activities and there is a major focus at the Club on how we can expand our revenues in an effort to reduce some of the distance between.
“We have, as a first and immediate challenge, to improve our own attendances and the recent ‘Earlybird’ season-ticket announcement was a signal of the board’s intent.
“We are conscious of the cost of today’s football and we will mitigate it where we sensibly can – hence the season ticket price freeze.
“I have felt the stadium’s famous atmosphere on sufficient occasions this season to know that this can be a special venue for Premier League games.
“There will not be an easy or quick fix to filling the stadium on a regular basis but neither is there any defeatism that it cannot be done. It would be wonderful if in the not-too-distant future we could all be discussing expansion plans at The Hawthorns against the background of a full stadium week in, week out.
“I was only 90 minutes into this job when I felt the impact of an Albion team and support-base combining as one. That was on the opening day at Crystal Palace when the noise and vibrancy of our fans really hit home and played a major role in our winning the game.
“That’s what we are chasing every week and we have made big strides already this season. For new owners and a new management team the journey has only just begun and the board looks forward to your continued support as we endeavour to bring you the club we all want to see and be proud of.
“Have a great summer.”
- John Williams, Chairman.