Steelers new chief wants a return to the good old days

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THE new man holding the purse strings at Steelers is in no doubt what he wants to achieve when the action starts next season at Sheffield Arena - more bums on seats.

THE new man holding the purse strings at Steelers is in no doubt what he wants to achieve when the action starts next season at Sheffield Arena - more bums on seats.

Tony Smith, who is assuming full control of running the club, started watching Steelers in the halcyon days of Ken Priestlay, Tommy Plommer and Tony Hand, in the mid 1990s, when the Broughton Lane stands were frequently full.

“The club used to erect extra seating at the end because of the amount of people packing in,” he said.

“That was awesome. While we may not go back to that I would love to see more fans coming through the doors, making the atmosphere as good as it was.”

While his business-partner Paul Ragan, who retains a half share in the ownership of the club, has this week publicly criticised outgoing coach Ben Simon, Smith was quick to sing the American’s praises.

He said: “I like to see an exciting team on the ice, I wasn’t an advocate of the Dave Matsos style of team even though it had its successes.

“But Ben’s team was great, I loved it. And I admired his attitude to work, he had that winning mentality.

“I saw what it meant to him when Sheffield lost in the Play Offs, he was inconsolable.

“Ryan Finnerty (Steelers 2011-12 player coach) is an exciting guy in the same mould, he wants to impress and will be working 20 hours a day to get things right.”

Smith said he has a good relationship with Finnerty and that a good bond with him and others inside the club would be the bedrock of the operation.

Smith also discussed the role of Steelers’ ubiquitous Mr Fix-It and match-night presenter Dave Simms.

“Dave will have a bigger part to play,” said Smith.

“He was cut out of the equation a little by the last management, yet he has been here since day one and he and the Supporters Club will be encouraged to play a bigger role.”

Smith said he felt that the club, despite financial challenges which had seen the liquidation of its latest management company, Ragan’s ‘Rink Corp’ had a bright future. Manor-born Smith is investing more than £100,000 in the brand.

“This club has great potential; that’s why Bob Phillips (previous owner) held on to it for so long,” he said.

Smith will speak to fans at a forum to explain the backroom changes tonight in the Richard Roberts Building of Sheffield University - Ragan will not be attending.