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Story posted: Monday, 1st November 2004

Fans Forum Transcript
The abridged transcript from the recent Fans Forum is now online.

Held on Friday 29th October 2004 in the Social Club.
What do you think about the approach of Hednesford for Jamie Barrett?

Gary Norton (GN): Hednesford are a decent side but are only one league above us. If it had been an approach from a Conference North club I don't think he'd have had a decision to make only that he's settled here at Gresley. He's amazed that another club is interested in him but I told him that it was a testimony to the way he's been playing this season. I've told Jamie to listen to what Hednesford have to say and make his decision. I've stated our case to him.

We've also had an approach for Karl Brown from Runcorn and he's going to talk to them on Monday. Money is not the reason or the travelling but Runcorn are in Conference North two steps above us in the league structure.

Do you think it's because he's playing alongside Ashley Dodd that Jamie has had such a good season?

GN: Yes, that's a fair point. They compliment each other and each brings a lot to the game. Ash has been a big signing for us and I was delighted when we got him. He's chipped in with a couple of goals already this season. When Jamie goes forward Ash drops back to cover and Jamie covers for Ash when he goes forward - they've developed a good understanding and relationship both on and off the pitch.

Jimmy Turner has proved to be a good signing.

GN: To be honest we were looking for a centre half to cover for Jamie Hood. I didn't want to put Ash in there because it would take him out of midfield although he can play in central defence and has done already this season and done a good job.

When Jimmy played for Derby County he played either on the right of midfield or as right back. When Richard Wardle retired it was a big loss for us in terms of versatility but then Matt K Smith came in. He's been unlucky with illness recently so Jimmy got his chance and has done very well. So it gives me a problem in that position but a nice one to have. Jimmy seems to be getting better and better with every game he plays for us.

Are you still looking for another striker?

GN: Yes we are, but its finding one good enough to come into the side. Aaron O'Connor is proving to be one of the biggest signings this season. I knew he'd be good when we tracked him last season although he was not playing in his best position. I play him in his favourite position, which is up front, and he's come into his own. He's enjoying his football and scoring goals at present but he knows that his success is not just down to him. He knows it's also down to the rest of the team in terms of creating chances - Aaron particularly plays well with Emeka.

We are looking to bring in a forward because Aaron is going to hit a lean spell at some time, if he doesn't that will be fantastic but I don't want to put pressure on him to keep getting the goals.

What about Chris White?

Mark Evans (ME): Chris has had a precautionary scan and we are awaiting the results. The scan was to ensure the problem had cleared up and if that is the case he will soon be playing some reserve team football to get his match fitness up.

What is the latest with Dale?

GN: Dale has his operation next Wednesday and will be in hospital for four days. He will then see his consultant again and we will be monitoring his progress.

The best-case scenario is he will be out for 3 months the worst is 6 months it just depends on whether there has been any damage to the nerve caused by the slipped disc.

If Dale is out long term what plans have we if Gavin is recalled?

GN: We have Gavin for three months but, before that was agreed we had spoken to one or two clubs that have second keepers and we also spoke to professional clubs so that we could bring a keeper in short term if necessary. We also have two keepers ourselves. One is out on loan at present the other, James Pemberton, deputised well in the FA Cup game so much so that it's almost certain he will play in the FA Trophy game against Frickley because Alfreton do not want Gavin cup-tied.

What's the latest with Ian Bluck?

GN: Unfortunately Ian's had a bit of a set back and the lad's gutted. He was recently moving house and he fell on his ankle so he's going to have treatment next week to try and put it right. It's a shame he's had the set back because he's 100% Gresley Rovers and the rest of the lads miss having him around the place.

If we did get anyone in on loan do we have to pay his wages?

ME: It's purely down to any negotiations between the two clubs concerned. Some times we have to pay the whole lot and some we don't have to pay a penny.

Where are we with regards to purchasing the Moat Ground?

ME: I have just this week received the contract to purchase the Moat Ground. The contract has been sent to both the landlord's solicitors and our solicitors. Subject to this draft being to both parties liking we will be signing in the not too distant future. The process is proceeding well but it is a very complicated procedure.

We have got the Football Foundation and the Football Association and all the relevant parties on board and now it's just a matter of getting them all together. Once the contract is signed, hopefully in the next couple of months, plans will then go ahead for the move to the new ground.

Will the new ground be on the land already earmarked?

ME: I've answered this question at previous fans forums and all I can say is yes, most probably it will be on that site. I've spoken to the district council and that is the preferred site. That site is part of the district council's strategic plan and there is already some funding for it and I believe it already has outline planning permission for a football stadium - so that site is the most likely location for Gresley Rovers' new ground. But, nothing has been signed or proposed but that is where I envisage Gresley going.

Gresley are flying high in the league and now attracting attention from other clubs, how do you intend to keep the team together?

GN: I think I'll lock them all in the dressing room and just get them out every Saturday! We've touched on this in an earlier question with regards to clubs coming in for our players - it's hard!

The Gresley players know they are part of something special here at the moment and if we can keep that going then great. Jamie was concerned that the team could be broken up so I put the ball back in his court and told him that if he stayed that would send out a message to the others.

We can't compete with the wages some teams in our league are paying. Our budget is reasonable and I'm happy with it. There are clubs with absolutely massive budgets and you go to their ground and see some of their players who are big wages sitting in the stand along side team mates on the same wages. It's a sorry state of affairs to be honest that some clubs at our level have that sort of money to throw around.

We have to react to each approach as come and try and persuade the players to stay.

ME: One thing we do here at Gresley is to tell the players of any approaches made for them unlike some other clubs who do not tell their players. We'd be foolish to prevent players from moving on and bettering themselves and I think the openness and honesty we have here has paid dividends because the players appreciate that.

How are the finances of the club at present?

ME: Things continue to improve. All commitments are being honoured. We continue to provide finances to progress the club and the ground has had probably more spent on it this pre-season than others. We are always trying to improve and this season we have some very good sponsors but you can't be complacent about it.

Our attendances are good and per head of population we are, someone has pointed out, one of the best supported clubs in the country. Gresley's population is around 3,500 and we average around 350 for our home games so that works out at 10%.

We are competing in people's leisure time with many other things more than we were many years ago. I'm happy that we are increasing our gates year on year. Last season we were the second or third best supported club in our league and this year we are in a similar position although the travelling support of other clubs is not as large as last season in the Southern League.

GN: I must say that the Gresley away support has been fantastic so far even when we travelled up to Kendle, which will probably be our furthest journey.

I thought Gresley's fitness, especially against Brigg, has been very good - what do you think?

GN: We did talk about it in the Brigg match at half time because of the tempo of the game played in those conditions. I believe we are one of the fittest teams in the league. That's testimony to the extra two weeks we had in pre-season. Also, we have a sponsorship deal with a local fitness club, Fitness First, and the majority of the squad have trained there. The players have their fitness levels tested at the gym. I'm very keen on testing the players' fitness levels starting pre-season then mid season and we will test them again at the end of the season. It's difficult when players are not getting a game regularly. Yes, they go to the gym etc but it's not the same as playing in a match - it's a completely different fitness level. But, I'm pleased with our fitness levels at present.

How is Gavin (Saxby) settling in at Gresley?

GN: He loves it here. One comment he did make was he that he thought this club was one of the most professional he's been involved with. He's been out on loan to a few clubs and he said that off the pitch he's impressed with how this club's run. When I asked David Lloyd if he would extend Gavin's loan I also asked Gavin himself out of courtesy and he snapped my hand off. When you hear this sort of feedback - that players regard the club as being run professionally - it is encouraging for both me and the chairman because we haven't the resources some other clubs have we do try to do things as professionally as we can within the constraints we have.

I'm delighted Gavin is with us until the end of January.

What are your aims and objectives for the rest of the season after such a good start?

GN: To be honest the start we've had has surprised me immensely. I always thought we were putting together a decent side. You always try to keep your feet on the ground with every game that passes. That's not to say we set our sights low at the beginning of the season. The target the chairman set was to finish in the top six and I felt that was realistic. If we do manage to do that it will be a step forward. There are some very good sides in this league and I've been surprised by a few sides that I thought would have struggled.

The start we've had has been fantastic and it's just a case of trying to keep things going.

Tomorrow will be our ninth away game out of fourteen league matches we've played and there is only Kidsgrove out of the top twelve that we haven't played and we are still unbeaten away from home.

I don't think anyone would have expected that. But, having said that we haven't changes our expectations. A top six finish is still our target. We are going to have a run of bad results; we are going to have injuries that will disrupt things but it's just a case of trying to minimise that.
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League Position
  Team P GD Pts
10 Highgate United 29 -3 38
11 South Normanton Athletic 26 0 37
12 Worcester City 26 11 36
13 AFC Wulfunians 31 -6 36
14 Coventry Sphinx 25 -19 34
15 Tividale 23 -4 27
16 Haughmond 29 -29 26
17 Racing Club Warwick 24 -29 24
18 Lye Town 28 -31 18
19 Gresley 26 -22 16
20 Selston 25 -38 13

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