Chesterfield’s Football League status might still be hanging by a thread but the club’s board are already planning for life in the National League.
Club director Ashley Carson went on the record today to explain why he’s still at the club despite three years of poor performance on and off the pitch and how the club plans to cope financially if they’re relegated.
He also addressed the future of manager Jack Lester, who has the backing of the board to remain at the Proact even if they do suffer an exit from the Football League.
Lester will, however, have to cut his cloth accordingly with a major budget cut on the way.
Carson said last night’s defeat at Exeter left them staring at a bleak picture with four fixtures remaining in League Two.
It’s the company secretary’s opinion that things started to go wrong for the club when Paul Cook left three years ago but there was nothing the club could have done to keep the manager.
He does, however, admit to failure on the board’s behalf that has contributed to the club’s current predicament.
“From our point of view, very disappointing and the reality that is looming is relegation,” he said.
“Dave Allen (owner) has probably been talking about relegation for the last month, six weeks now. He’s very disappointed about it. Obviously now looking forward to what we do to correct this.
“I think for me it all went wrong when Paul Cook went. We had some magic in there, some sparkle, we had a great manager and from that point we never recovered.
“Whatever we did at the time, unfortunately we were not going to keep Paul Cook.
“I know it’s harsh but he went to a bigger club at the end of the day, it was very, very hard to do anything about that.
“Unfortunately we’re still in that situation now. An awful lot of politics off the field have contributed to it, some of the managers that have come in have not performed.
“We interviewed with the greatest belief, we thought they’d do the job and they haven’t so we have a combination of failure on the pitch and I have to hold my hands up, failure off the pitch in the boardroom as well in some areas.
“Losing touch with the fanbase as well, I still think that is an issue we need to address.
“The Sheffield thing has not been accepted in Chesterfield and I don’t think it ever will be.”
In recent weeks a section of the club’s fanbase have made their feelings known with chants demanding Carson’s departure from the club.
He was confronted by supporters after defeat at Carlisle and a fan remonstrated with him at the Proact on Saturday.
When asked why he’s still at the club, the director replied: “A dedication and a loyalty to Dave Allen first and foremost.
“I’ve spoken to him about this on several occasions, he wants me to remain at the club.
“I think relegation and everything else that’s happened is not solely down to one person, I don’t think the blame is all down to myself.
“I’m in a position at this club I didn’t ask to be in, circumstances have led to this. It’s the same for John Croot and Mike Warner on the board as well.
“I’ve given Dave Allen assurances I will stay until the club can be sold.”
Carson says first team boss Lester will also remain at the club, even if relegation to the National League is confirmed.
“Absolutely. I’ve spoken to Jack, we’ve got more meetings to have in terms of where we’re going forward with the club once we know the final fate.
“From a boardroom perspective there’s no reason at all to dismiss Jack.”
The manager will be tasked with mounting a promotion bid, but he’ll have to cope with a significant cut to the playing budget.
A number of players have relegation clauses in their contracts that will reduce their wages and one player will have the option of a free transfer after any drop in division.
“Next year we’re going to have to cut the wage bill in half, probably slightly more than that, just under £1m and we’ve got to run this club as a really tight ship to make sure the money Dave Allen puts in will be minimal,” he said.
“I think the aspirations were there to always get the promotion, we’ve been chasing the dream and I think we’ve been chasing it for too long.
“It’s not sustainable, we are very fortunate that Dave has been putting the money in but there comes a stage where you have to have that reality check and that’s where we are now.
Also going down are season ticket prices, irrespective of the division in which the club finds itself, with a reduction of around 20 per cent in the price of a season ticket.
Existing season ticket holders will be given an additional five per cent reduction with the early bird deal and matchday prices for an adult will range from £16 to £20.
But the club will have to find an extra £500,000 in cuts to costs if they do get relegated.
On the status of a proposed takeover, Carson said he’s still in talks with an interested party who have shaken hands with the current owner.
He revealed that the consortium have already secured a director of football.
But if no deal is finalised by the final whistle on the last day of the season, the club will move on.
“I speak to them at least weekly,” he said.
“They have selected a director of football they’d want to bring in to the club, I talk to that director of football two or three times a week.
“They’re currently looking at the team, the way that we play, the goals, everything. So they’re very much involved already in the backround with things.
“The only issue is back to the finance side, I’m told that everything should be in place any time now.
“In terms of backstop situation with this, myself and Dave Allen are really looking at this and saying we have to move on if it doesn’t happen by the last kick of this season.
“If it’s not happened by then they we have to seriously consider that it’s not going to happen.”
Carson also told the Derbyshire Times he plans to introduce two supporters to the board on an associate director level, to help bridge the gap between the powers that be and the fans.
One of the appointments will be female.
“I want them to see what happens in the boardroom, be involved, bring information back in terms of what we’re not delivering to the fans, have authority to be able to change things, see all the management accounts,” he said.
“They’ll see everything going on in the club, there’s nothing to hide, I’ll repeat that, there’s nothing to hide. We brought Michael Dunford in, he’s a trustee on the EFL pension fund, he’s a top, top person to bring in to help out - if I had anything to hide I wouldn’t have brought him in.
“We brought Nigel Smith in, again, a great appointment, he sees everything and there’s nothing to hide.”
The full interview will be available later tonight on the club’s iFollow channel and then subsequently broadcast on the club’s official YouTube account.