The Thoughts of Chairman Peo

As he enters the third year of his reign as  the Tigers’supremo, Adam Pearson talks to Amber Nectar about the mounting speculation surrounding Peter Taylor’s future, the spat with the Hull Daily Mail and problem solving at The Circle.

Amber Nectar: Are you still confident that Peter Taylor can do the job?

Adam Pearson: Yes! You’d expect me to have that as a standard answer, but yes, definitely.

It’s not the managers fault that everything has to be done at breakneck speed at Hull to satisfy what has been a long time, 20 years, of pent up frustration from hype and expectancy.

You’ve been through it so many times I don’t know how you’ve kept going, because I’ve had two years of it now and I find it… wearing. That’s not to say the ambition has gone, we’re still massively ambitious, but the guy deserves some time.

His track record merits being given more time. I know exactly what is being said, I’ve plenty of supporters telling me after games what they think, but we can’t keep doing it, we have to give somebody some time and a man of his pedigree deserves that. Therefore I will give him that time. Obviously, if supporters change his mind over the next few months then he has his own mind to make up, but as far as I’m concerned I’m 100% committed to him.

AN: Do you accept Taylor’s statement that the players are fearful of playing in front of large home crowds?

AP: Sometimes after a game, the press are immediately in there, straight after the final whistle. Managers up and down the country make statements to protect the footballers, it’s part of managing people, it’s the way to build team spirit and the way they see that you’re trying to look after them. I’d be surprised if we’ve got players in our side that don’t want to play in front of big crowds. There may be one or two, but I wouldn’t say it’s a general weakness amongst the squad. I think the vast majority came here because of the size of the club and the gates we attract. The sole reason Ritchie Appleby came to this club was to play in front of a large audience because he had turned down more money at Kidderminster and one or two other clubs to come here for that reason.

If there is specific criticism, singularly targeting one player, then I think that can unsettle a player. Now, they are low on confidence and Peter is addressing that, he realises as Jan did before him, that there isn’t the mental resolve in certain players required to be a promotion winning team. He is slowly eking them out of the side and replacing them with players he believes are of a stronger mental resolve. The next one to come back is Appleby and he has got an absolute winners mentality, then you’ve got three of them in midfield backed up by four in defence and one in goal. Whatever criticisms you may have at the minute, Peter knows how to run a squad of footballers who respect him.

AN: The collapse of the Andy Thompson transfer, with the experience of Scott Kerr, did you want to make sure the medical process was followed to the letter?

AP:  Peter was desperate to bring the lad in which is why it rumbled on so long, the first scans on his back weren’t right, so we did more scans in London to compare the results with the first scans and the scans he had taken when he joined QPR. What they showed, without going in to detail, just wasn’t right, in the end I don’t think the manager was prepared to take the risk on him and the player was extremely disappointed.

AN: The Branch deal, what were Wolves playing at?

AP: Michael came in and he did well, he was the best of the forwards we had available then. The agent’s fee was ridiculous in size because he was handling a player on a huge wage coming out of Wolves on a free. Jez Moxey at Wolves, after agreeing to a free transfer, saw the boy had done reasonably well and because we are perceived as having a fair bit of money asked for a fee. It’s alright people saying ‘pay that fee’ but the minute that breaks internally within football circles, you’ll be expected to pay over the odds for players thereon in. Michael had done well, but so well that we’d break every principle in the book? Probably not.

Moxey did come back and say we could have him for free and the agent went down to a reasonable level, but by then Peter had decided he was going to go with a big man and a proven goal scorer, and that goal scorer is Jamie Forrester. In Stuart Elliott and Lawrie Dudfield I think we have similar players to Michael and we felt we needed something bigger.

AN: The transfer window, beneficial or not?

AP: I think that it’s causing problems in the League, it’s creating another excuse for Mr. Sheepshanks. My only fear is that the whole paranoia in the First Division at the present time leads to a knee jerk reaction. Certainly the transfer window has exacerbated the problems of the First Division clubs who are in dire, dire straights and I’d hate for them to break away and take out promotion and relegation because that would be a disaster for the whole game, not just Hull City.

AN:  There has been lots of talk of players out drinking the night before games, what do you make of this?

AP: Well, I never got any complaints over the Christmas period when we were doing alright, they’ve come out of the woodwork again now we are doing poorly. There was a story, I got six letters about it, although three were from the same address when we checked it out, about Green, Delaney and Alexander being out on the town on a Friday night. They all sat in front of me and completely denied it and demanded to meet the people saying they were there. I rang the people and they weren’t prepared to sit down and talk to the players, when I spoke to the manager of the bar they were supposedly in, he wouldn’t give me any CCTV footage, so what do you do at the end of the day? It’s been said Stuart Elliott has been seen out, the lad’s tee total, all the lads had a pre-Christmas night out, Stuart didn’t go on it, it’s not in his way of life, they’ve picked the wrong boy there.

AN: Did you think the Hull Daily Mail were cowardly in the way they changed the Stuart Elliot story that led to the spat?

AP: My point on the matter was to support the manager, he felt totally let down as he has an arrangement where the press have access to players on the Thursday and they leave them alone on the Friday. The story that was being printed for the Saturday afternoon contained considerable exposure to Stuart’s connections in Northern Ireland, particularly his family. His wife is six months pregnant, he’s got a little baby boy, what possible good will it do for Stuart and the club to have those connections broadcast at this stage? They went down to see Stuart, asked him about connections to whatever it is Northern Ireland and he refused to comment on it.

When the piece was written there was widespread exposure with regards to his brother doing a prison sentence and his brother’s connections to Ulster factions, I couldn’t for the life of me see what purpose that served. John Meehan very cleverly dropped all that out of the story and printed a non-story about Stuart’s religion. What was annoying was for them to say that John Fieldhouse was banned from the stadium and that was never, ever spoken about. All I’d said was he couldn’t have exposure to the players on a Thursday like he’d had before, the players and the manager don’t want to talk to you anymore. He was pissed around on the day of that match and moved from seat to seat, that shouldn’t have happened and maybe someone was having a bit of a crack at him, but he was never banned. It was a clever ploy from the Hull Daily Mail to start talking about freedom of the press, la de da, they have since apologised to the manager and the player.

AN: How smooth was the transition to the new stadium?

AP:  From a supporter point of view it was an absolute bloody nightmare, but from our point of view we were fairly pleased. There was loads of things wrong with the stadium that we are putting right now, but from the point of view of fans trying to get a ticket for the Sunderland and Hartlepool games it was a disaster. No other club has moved halfway through a season and we knew it was going to be difficult, but we didn’t expect to only get three days notice and to then take on a stadium that wasn’t finished, but once we’d made the decision that we were moving we had to do that and from my point of view I don’t think we did that badly.

AN: How long before we can operate at full capacity?

AP: Quite a while yet, we’ve still got 130 construction workers on site, so as soon as they leave you’ve then got a month before you can even apply and the odds of us getting it first time are very slim. If we were in the play offs we’d have battled really hard to get it, but as things stand we’ll just take it gently and have it in place for the start of next season.

AN: Why did the Council ignore the clubs wishes regarding some elements of the stadium, for example the size of the ticket office?

AP: To be fair to the Council, it was the project managers Driver Jonas who ignored us a few things, the main ones being the turnstiles and the ticket office. The turnstiles have been made with a Premier League club in mind, they are alright if everyone has got a ticket but as soon as money is involved they are inadequate.

The ticket office is built for a stadium with in my estimation, 7000-8000 seats. We supplied details of what we would like which was eight windows and another for wheelchair users, an in and an out door and a canopy outside. So we were disappointed when it became apparent that they had no intention of changing it and when we finally got it in December it was worse than we thought, the equipment didn’t work, the glass was too thick, the microphones didn’t work, the seats were too high, there was no cash trays built in and the computer ledges were too small. So operationally the place was a disaster area, so we have to rebuild it. We will sort it out, but I don’t think it has been that bad since those two games.

AN: From a supporters standpoint, customer service has been poor with little communication between the clubs departments, is that a fair assessment?

AP: It was through December and January, but if you come back after six months and said the same I’d be extremely disappointed, we’ve recruited a lot of staff who have just started, in the ticket office, we’ve taken on an officer for disabled supporters, obviously Dan [Pratt] covers the fans liaison side, we’ve full time staff on the security side, there are an awful lot of people coming in who have got liaison skills and responsibilities within their job description, so if things don’t improve on December and January when everyone was fire fighting, not enough phone lines, couldn’t communicate…if people are still aiming criticism in July and August I’ll be extremely disappointed given the overheads we’ve put into the personnel side.

AN: The club are reported to be in a strong financial position, how long can we maintain that strength while in the Third Division?

AP:  It’s difficult for me to get the balance right, I battle every day with agents and with other clubs, trying to plead poverty. On one hand you want people to think you’ve got no  money, but you try to assure supporters that you’re in the most enviable position of any club outside the Premier League. The other clubs pick it up, they come here and see 16,000 or 14,000 at games and thing we are ladling around in money. That’s not the case, £2.5m has been invested into the club over the last fourteen months, which will show on the accounts when they come through in July.

So the investment is there for all to see, it is a big expensive stadium to run and it’s a relatively expensive squad and management team to run, but we are in good shape, I’ve no loans and no debts, I owe a friend a bit of money, which he doesn’t want back, I’ve spent everything I had to put in and I’m still signing personal guarantees and although we’re not ladling around in cash we are alright.

Things like the Premier Club help enormously, being in the Third Division’s not the problem, the gates are the problem, they need to stay around 10,500. The way the club is structured, there are revenue streams coming into the club from all sorts of different areas so we’re not solely  dependent on gate.

AN: We’ve been quite profligate in the transfer market over the last two years, has the time come to tighten the belt so as to maintain the financial stability and also to work with what we’ve got?

AP: Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. If a new manager comes in you have to support him, it’s not fair to him if he’s bringing a big reputation and credibility to not support him, he has been supported, the support on major signings until the summer stops, we will bring in some major signings in the summer, whether that’s through wages and packages or through transfer fees is up to the manager. The turnover will stop though, the club will be run on twenty players plus four young pros, Peat, Donaldson, Fry and Burton. If you’ve any injuries to the twenty then those four young pros will be involved which is what we want.

Thanks to Louise Wells