Fans Forum (23/04/2010)
Blades-Mad attended the first of two fans forums which took place last night and was broadcasted live on BBC Radio Sheffield... The forum, which took place at Sheffield United's Legends at the Lane between 7:00-8:00pm and was hosted by Chairman Kevin McCabe and Chief Executive Trevor Birch. Around 60 Blades fans attended and was also broadcasted live on BBC Radio Sheffield (hosted by Seth Bennett) and on BladesPlayerWhilst I personally didn't ask any questions during this forum I did find the whole event cosy and informative, all in attendance were made to feel welcome and those whom asked questions received answers from both Kevin and Trevor.The whole evening was kick-started by Seth Bennett, whom himself raised a few questions (and eyebrows) to the hosts before questions were taken from the floor.Below are the series of questions and answers asked by Seth and the reminder of the guests in attendance!Kevin McCabe"It is good to address our fans, both in attendance here tonight and on the radio. It has been a tricky season, expectations are always high and it has not gone as expected but it's not for the want of trying and commitment."I'm looking for myself and Trevor to answer interesting questions. Key players have been injured for a good proportion of games and if we had had Paddy it might have brought us another seven or eight points."We have spent more this season than planned and our wage bill when the season ends will be the fourth biggest the Championship."In terms of recruitment, being in last year's play-off final cost us a month when ideally we wanted to be accumulating players."We've not skimped to get players in, most loan players have come from Premiership clubs but we've not don't as well as we expected to do."We didn't think we got the transfer policy wrong at the time but we were handcuffed until after Wembley. Looking back maybe we didn't always make the right choices and maybe we could have got other players if we had had that month."On Ched Evans:"We have committed to a £3m package for Ched Evans including an initial £750,000 payment - eight out of ten transfers are spread over the course of the contract."At the beginning of the season we brought in eight players, many from the Premiership. We thought more may have come from the Academy, but there any until young Matty Lowton started to appear on the bench."On personal investment:"I've invested £50m into the club, I'm as passionate as anyone and my aim is to work my utmost any to bring in success. We have transformed the club and the ambition and the drive is still there, but we have to adapt because circumstances change."We don't want United to follow other clubs in the plight that they are in, we try to move forward with common sense."On transfers and fees:"Mistakes have been made but we will not stop striving to take United back to the Premiership. Matt Kilgallon was out of the contract at the end of the season, we offered him good terms but he refused so what is the solution... you have no alternative but to sell him because he would move for nothing."On the total package of transfer fees and wages we probably have spent the same as we have brought in. We run the club sensibly and we've always been there or thereabouts."What is happening in football in general is that most clubs are reducing player wage bills and players have to accept less money."Many players want to come to Sheffield United, they know we are a big club and are amongst the top Championship clubs - others appreciate that fact."Trevor BirchOn injuries and causes:"It has been well documented that we have had a vast number of injuries and debuts this season, and I've never known a club be so unlucky."When I look at our physio and fitness departments they are amongst the best in the league, so that's not the problem."You cannot underestimate the fit of having a full complement of players on the first day of pre-season and Kevin Blackwell didn't have that - we've suffered from that."On loan spending:"There is ambition with common sense - we have invested and we have acted prudently, spending £2m on loan fees this season alone. We don't want United to find themselves in the position of other clubs by spending without thought and reason."Question - We made a £3m loss in China, there is a lack of local interest, how long are the Directors prepared to subsidise Chengdu Blades?Kevin: "We still control Chengdu but have totally reorganised. We have commercial rights and overseeing rights but have restructured so we don't have the financial responsibility. We need to make sure of the talent that is around the club, and must work harder to make sure we don't miss it."Question - Can we expect Kevin Blackwell to have a squad for day one of pre-season?Trevor: "We are working with Kevin and our scouting team day and night to have as many as possible for day one of pre-season. There is a problem with getting the right players at the right time because players naturally wait for offers."Question - Why has Billy Sharp been left at Doncaster scoring goals?Trevor: "The loan agreement for the year didn't give us the ability. The only way he could have moved was in January if we had an offer to sell him. The reasoning behind the structure of the loan deal was that Doncaster would pay his wages for the year."Kevin: "Billy has proved he can score goals at Championship level and we want to keep him."Question - Have we got in wrong by paying over budget?Kevin: "We lost a month and Paddy Kenny, and maybe some of the players we brought in were not right to suit the unit of Sheffield United, but Blackie and I are only human."On the wage bill:Trevor: "The wage bill this season will have been about £14m."Kevin: "It is more than we would have liked to have paid."Question - Where does the buck stop with the budget?Kevin: "I suffer like every fan, get frustrated, but I don't say things until the morning after because of my position as chairman but when I wake up on Sunday morning I look at the team and they are good players, but some we have had out of necessity. It's been a lesson this season in terms of loan players and it has cost us."Question - Will there be more permanent signings next season?Trevor: "The intention is to have our own players and get them in for the start of the season. We already have 16 players contracted for next season. Transfer fees are just part of the equation. There will be less paid in the transfer fees."Kevin: "Not many clubs are paying transfer fees now."Question - Is the manager under any pressure to sell?Trevor: "We have to look at the squad and make the decision - none has been made yet. With the costs we are looking at for next season we will compete."Kevin: "The strategy is to start next season with a squad that will take us up. We may have had meetings with Kevin this week but for the travel chaos, and we have yet to have that meeting."Question - Have you any regrets about investing heavily in the season after the Premiership?Kevin: "James Beattie, a player we all loved. His contract should have expired at the end of this season but in October 2008, his agent wanted to negotiate a new contract and he was already probably the highest paid player in the league. I refused... what would you do? What happens between October and January is that his agent looked towards placing James at a club with a long lucrative contract. You can't control it, it is the agent trying to get a better deal for his client. The climate has changed since James left, we are in recession and if any business is blind to it then it will be in trouble."Trevor: "We are not alone as a club that has struggled after coming down from the Premier League. Up to two weeks ago we were competing for a place in the top flight, outside our parachute payments. It is difficult to re-budget after the payments stop and it does leave a legacy effect on wages."Question - Nick Montgomery... what's the situation?Trevor: "We said we would talk at the end of season, I have met his agent recently and we will continue to talk."Kevin: "He doesn't want to leave the Blades and we are doing our best."Question - What's the budget for next season?Kevin: "It will be reduced but we haven't set it. We will make better use of the Academy and the overseas network - I'd eventually like to see players from Hungary, China and Australia here, plus two or three we have homegrown."Trevor: "The first year scholars are considered to be of high quality and so is the next bunch - in the next two of three years we hope to see a result. We should strive to see five, six, seven players coming through our ranks. It is not and exact science and there will always be ups and downs in how often they are produced - for me the Academy is a big part and that's why John Pemberton comes arrived in two weeks time. I'll be driving the message that we need to be aggressive in recruitment of young talent."Question - How confident are you that Kevin Blackwell is the man to get the club into the Premiership?Kevin: "I've know him a long time and he is a good manager, he has learned a lot. With regard to the mix of players and the playing style, we are working with him on a style that will, God willing, get us into the Premiership. Since Kevin has been with us there haven't been too many complaints about his first two seasons, and last season we missed out of Premiership by a whisker."Question - Do you feel he will walk away?Kevin: "I'd very much like him to be here in charge."Question about player movementKevin: "Players have to move on and we can't always get contracts in place - that is part and parcel of being a Championship manager because you can't keep players all the time. Even in the Tony Currie days players weren't loyal for ever. Sir Alex must have built about six teams in his time in Manchester and even Ronaldo was sold."Question - There's been negativity creeping out from the Boardroom and it seems to coincide with the (failed) bid for the World Cup - and Trevor Birch's arrival, although there is no suggestion that he has caused it?Kevin: "I interviewed Trevor three years ago but he was too expensive so I'm delighted he is now in place - he runs the club day to day. What we have tried to do is transfer this football club into a modern one with a business model that should and will work?"Question - How dependant was the ground development on the World Cup bid?Kevin: "Everyone is proud of the stadium, and whilst we are in the Championship it is adequate. We have one of the best Academies in England, plus a junior Academy which some clubs don't have. I don't think we are making full use of the Academy and it is something we are reshaping, and we are not getting enough from the international division but we have the ingredients. We will expand the Kop in the Premiership and that will take us to 37,000, and in England that gets us to the top 12 in the country. United is a business and the hub is success on the pitch, that's why we are all here."Trevor: "I feel very positive about this club, it has wonderful opportunities. Look at the infrastructure, we are different and I will play my part in driving it forward."Kevin: "We were all surprised that Bramall Lane was not selected as Sheffield's favoured venue for the World Cup bid but our simple complaint has been towards the council - not Sheffield Wednesday - for what we believe was bad administration. The complaint is with the ombudsman. I expect if the ombudsman agrees with us the council will get their knuckles wrapped."Question - Mr McCabe, rumour has it that you are lowering your involvement for and looking for a foreign investment. Are you going to continue to support us?Kevin: "I wish I could say no! If it was not for the Carlos Tevez affair I may have stood down as Chairman but I had to stand up Sheffield United. Stepping down makes no difference, if you are the owner you can't take away your responsibility. The commitment still burns and I will strive like hell. I'll not do so many interviews, because I'm not around, but we will strive for success, come hell and high water. It is not easy running football in the climate at the moment. Most of my money has been invested as capital. The responsibility I have is to my club, my supporters to ensure we don't get into a mess. We are trying to seek new investment, whether we can achieve it I don't know. Maybe we can find people who want to invest in Sheffield United because they have heard of us globally."Trevor: "No interest on the loans has been paid to Kevin. If we get an investor, he is happy with that money to go into the club - and not to him."Question - Season Ticket Deadline has been extended... are sales down and is that why the transfer budget has not been set?Trevor: "We are not too far down on last season at this stage - we are on about 12,000 as against around 13.5k to14k at the same stage"
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