Fans Forum - August 2009
Notes from the Fans Forum held at the New Den on Thursday 6 Augustl 2009
Bob Asprey (Chairman Of The Millwall Supporters Club) opened the forum by thanking everyone for attending and explaining that the forum will be in two parts with two separate panels. He then proceeded to introduce the first panel who included Kenny Jackett (Team Manager), and players Steve Morison and Alan Dunne. Questions were then taken from the floor
Question - I understand that Paul Robinson has had to have a second operation to insert a high density pin in his foot. Why was this pin not inserted in the first operation?
Kenny Jackett (KJ) replied by saying that everyone at the club was asking the same question. A top surgeon was employed to deal with Paul's problem and on the face of it his assessment may have proved slightly incorrect. However, Paul played as a substitute in a couple of games at the end of last season and had trained hard then. Also the first pin lasted throughout the summer so it's hard to explain why he has broken down now.
It's a great shame, as Paul looked very bright and fit at the start of pre-season. He has had the second operation and is expected back by the end of September. He is hungry and desperate to play.
Question - If Zak Whitbread is sold do you see Tony Craig and Andy Frampton as long term replacements in central defence or are you looking for a new centre back?
KJ replied that he was looking for a centre back certainly short-term. He has been very impressed with Tony's commitment and ability at centre back. He has fulfilled the right sided centre back role and could be even better if he reverted to his natural left side. As regards Zak Whitbread the frustrating fact is that he is not fit. He has pain down the back of his leg, which could be a hernia. If a club does come in with a deal right for Millwall, he will be sold, as at present he seems adamant that he wants to leave. We are waiting for him to return to fitness and then he might return to the first team if an acceptable offer has not been received. The Middlesbrough friendly was a good work out but we lost two players to injury in Tony Craig (back spasm) and Danny Senda (Achilles tendon). It's a shame for Danny as he has had a really good month in training but the Achilles has virtually snapped and he has had an operation today. Although he is on a month contract, the club will look after him. It is probable that Jack Smith and Andy Frampton will be used on Saturday and the search will continue next week. I have been very impressed with Jack who can play in a couple of positions along the back line.
Question - What has happened to the deal to bring in Mathias Doumbe?
KJ reply. That deal now looks dead. We offered him what he asked for. He delayed his decision and now looks like he wants to join MK Dons. We targeted another centre back this week who has decided to stay at his parent club for now. I see Doumbe more as a right back who can play centre half.
Question - (To Alan Dunne) Do you feel you have now overcome your bad patch and are now settling into the club again?
Alan's reply-I link my recent good run of form to the fact that the manager asked me what my favoured position is and he is now playing me there at right full back. I have been moved around across the midfield at over times and I think this sometimes constant position changes has not helped my progress or career (someone shouted. Did you enjoy Mark McGhee's last game in charge when he played you on the left wing (laughter)--I just ran my heart out.
Question - Are you looking to strengthen at centre back, left wing. What about the Mkandawire deal at Orient?
KJ answered - At present my attention is on the defence. However, I am in a good position whereby funds are available to bring in players. Mkandawire is interesting as he is a good talent and is a London based player. Orient are however currently putting a valuation on the player that is very high and that is currently why he is still at Orient. If Dave Martin gets injured, we have no back up in that area and we may need to bring in a replacement. However, I have a transfer fund and can loan players outside the transfer windows.
Question - Do you know your front two?
KJ replied bluntly yes to laughter in the room.
Question - Young Hegarty played very well at Dartford-Would you consider him as a choice to solve our current defensive crisis?
KJ answered Hegarty is a very promising young centre back and is one of 5 or 6 youth players showing signs of being able to cope with first team football. At 16 he is however too young to feature at first team level at present.
Question - Last season we lacked goals. Are there goals in this team and how are you going to use Ashley Grimes?
KJ stated, that he thought he had now got a good mix of strikers and that the goals will come. It's a big season for Ashley. He has good feet but likes coming on to the ball rather than holding it up. I shall be looking at combinations.
Question - I noticed in the playoff final that as soon as Jimmy Abdou departed through injury, Scunthorpe gained control of the midfield. What do you think is your best midfield?
KJ replied - I have options but Bolder and Abdou have come out on top. I have no left sided midfielder however.
Question - Do you not think that Abdou and Bolder are too defensive? We really need an attacking midfielder who will score goals
KJ answered I believe I have one in Marc Laird.
Question - Would you consider playing Neil Harris as an attacking midfielder?
KJ responded - No Neil Harris is a centre forward and I feel if I did this, we miss out in other areas. It makes us too narrow.
Question - The club has recently lost a scout. Has he been replaced?
KJ - Yes we have recruited Jamie Johnson from Spurs.
Question - Who will be your first choice right winger this season, Chris Hackett or Lewis Grabban?
KJ replied You will see on Saturday. Lewis Grabban had a fine first half of the season. His pure pace allowed him to run on to balls and run through defences. However, his performances later in the season and particularly in the playoff final were disappointing. He gave all or nothing displays last season and must gain greater consistency. He can be a massive threat when on his game and running on to the ball.
Question - Do you think having Chris Hackett behind him at right back benefited Lewis?
KJ-They had a good relationship but once the word got around then we thought Chris got targeted by teams and his defensive frailties were exposed.
Question - (To Alan Dunne) Lewis Grabban has experienced some crowd criticism How should he deal with it?
Alan reply - My situation improved when I got a settled run in my position in the team. Professionals must expect some stick and be mentally strong.
Question (To Steve Morison). Steve do you think you can supply the goals needed this season. How has your training regime trained stepping up to the League and what type of forward are you?
Steve's reply - I have no doubt in my ability to score and am looking forward to Saturday's game. I really enjoyed playing at The Den last weekend.
I am good in the air quick and strong. I've scored 25 plus goals in each of the last three seasons so I have to back myself to do it again.
When you come to a League team, you just notice the higher standard of players around you. You also notice the intensity of training and the regime of training and eating directly afterwards rather than a few hours later when in non-league.
Question - (To both players) What is the mood in the dressing room?
Alan replied. We have a good spirit and are ready to go again. Steve said everyone is focussed on the new season. The league will be very competitive and we have an amount of work to do.
Question - Kenny your fitness regime certainly paid off last season but in some games our retention of the ball left a lot to be desired?
KJ responded you are right on both accounts.
A major turning point was the away game at Brighton and our performance dipped for a time around February. We need to be more consistent in keeping the ball and concentrate on being more constructive.
Question - Kenny who do you think will come second in our division this year?
KJ replied - The Division will be very competitive with some two thirds of the teams believing they have a chance of promotion. There will be plenty of tough southern derbies but you have to fancy Huddersfield and Leeds to be very competitive.
Question - Kenny Do you think you have done all you can to keep Zak Whitbread?
KJ - Yes we have offered him various contract options to try to retain his services but it seems he wants to leave.
Bob Asprey opened the second half of the Forum by introducing the second panel who included Andy Ambler (Football Club Managing Director), Peter Garston (Fan On The Board) and Ray James (Head Of Commercial And Marketing).
Questions were then taken.
Question - When will Millwall allow under 14s into ‘Arry’s, as the club’s provision for families is very limited?
Bob said that when fans were last asked a few years ago whether ‘Arry’s should be opened to children, it was decided that it should be an adult bar. ‘Arry’s is very crowded on matchdays and so this is unlikely to change. Andy Ambler continued that it is obvious that the facility is now too small, and the club is looking at the community centre to improve facilities for parents with children but at present there appears to be a problem with the lease regarding its use and the sale of alcohol.
Question - Why not extend the bar by adding portacabin accommodation in the car park?
Andy replied that he was concentrating on seeing whether the community centre could be made available. He was keen to encourage families and hoped that the new family club would be a success.
Question - Will the smoking area behind the South stand be extended this season?
Andy responded that it will be maintained but not extended, but an area behind the East Stand will be opened for smokers this season.
The problem with the West Stand is the lack of land available for an enclosure.
Question - How much is the club making out of the deal that allows the BBC to show League highlights this season?
Andy replied that the sum was not great. The Championship took 80% of the money, League One took 12 % and League Two took 8%. The Championship clubs had the largest League voting rights and would always vote revenue for themselves. That is why we must get promoted.
Question - How is the club’s transfer activities being affected by the likelihood of a salary cap being imposed on the League.?
Andy said that there was already a salary cap in League Two and that there is already a debate about it encompassing the rest of the Football League.
Clubs in League One and the Championship are looking to restrict players’ wages and it seems inevitable that some kind of cap will be imposed.
Normally salary caps benefit the larger teams as they are based on turnover and it is up to us to get the best terms for this club.
Current transfer negotiations are not affected as there is normally a period to allow clubs to bring their dealings into line with the cap if it is imposed.
Question - Why are our reserve games being played at Dartford this season? Andy responded that the club has formed a partnership with Dartford, which it is hoped will benefit both clubs.
Kenny Jackett wants as few games as possible being played at The Den this season to maintain the pitch to the highest possible standard.
There is a strong band of Millwall supporters in Kent and this will allow them easier access to see our reserves and we hope that between 200/250 fans will turn up to see each reserve game. Indeed, the Tuesday friendly with Millwall was only the third time that Dartford has filled its stadium.
Reserve games will be played in the evening at Dartford commencing 7pm and entry will cost £3 - £1 for OAPs. The reason why an admission charge is being levied and the games are no longer free for season ticket holders is to provide money to cover the cost of staging the match and maintain the stadium. It would be very expensive for evening reserve fixtures to be played at The Den.
Question - Is there any truth in the rumour that the club is looking to re-locate to Kent?
Andy denied that there was any truth. The Chairman is committed to playing football in the current stadium and in eventually having the club benefiting from the regeneration around it.
Peter Garston continued that every time the subject is raised it is thrown out by the Board. Millwall is a London club and its London location helps it to operate and allows it to benefit from a larger floating support.
Question - When are Millwall going to show a real presence in Kent Soccer Schools - Charlton is there and so is Arsenal?
Andy replied that the a deal was done with Dartford FC last week to provide joint soccer schools with Millwall. These schools will have Millwall coaches in Millwall tracksuits. The Deputy Mayor of Dartford is particularly supportive of the scheme as he is a Millwall season ticket holder!
Andy continued that one rich investor heavily funds the much-admired Charlton community scheme.
Ray James followed on by saying that the club is having a real drive to bring back the supporters in Kent. There was a rap around advertisement in the Mercury this week. Contacts with the News Shopper have been strengthened and negotiations are currently ongoing with the Kent Messenger.
It is very important that more crowds attend matches at The Den.
The club is also in discussions with Asda and are being helped by Bukta to get Millwall products promoted in their stores.
It was recognised by the Board that we must make tickets easier to buy which we hopefully have done by introducing the new ticketing system and that success on the pitch will bring in the crowds.
Question - We’ve heard about your efforts in Kent but what are you doing about the large population who live closer to the ground. Should you not do a poster campaign in the area around the stadium? And what about the back of the East Stand which is visible from the railway?
Andy started by saying that the Millwall Community Scheme has just agreed with Southwark Council to enter 35 schools for children football training.
The club must work closer with it’s own community scheme and with the local community. Some games will be allocated to hand out free tickets to the local community but individuals will only receive one free ticket.
Ray was interested in the poster campaign but it must be cost effective. The poster campaign orchestrated by Stewart Till in the City and on buses a couple of years ago cost around £20,000.
Ray is also trying to find sponsors for advertisements on the stadium to be seen from the railway.
Peter added that advertising in this way was not easy as scaffolding had to be erected very close to the railway and there was also an argument whether railway passengers will read it.
Question - Would the club consider playing games on a Friday night to boost attendances like Southend/Tranmere have done?
Andy replied no not really. The preferred time for games is 3pm on Saturdays.
Question - How many season tickets have we sold?
Ray replied that season ticket sales are up by nearly 300 compared to last year to a current figure of 4,489.
The club was also pleased that Junior Lions memberships were up by some 400 to 887. The club is putting a greater emphasis on attracting young supporters with the improved family area this season.
Question - Haven’t the club missed a big opportunity by not offering a promotion to all those attending Wembley of buying a season ticket and getting a child season ticket free?
Andy said that offering free season tickets is also a very difficult initiative. The season ticket initiative offered by Huddersfield cost that club serious money and it will never be offered again.
Offering free tickets hits revenues as it restricts the number of seats available for sale for big matches.
Question - You want higher crowds but is it not the case that you must deal with the hooligan problems. These people only attach themselves to the club for high profile matches like Hull but do untold harm to those considering attending The Den particularly with children?
Andy responded by saying that our supporters must realise that bad behaviour at games and around attending games inflicts damage to their own club.
A campaign will remind fans that particularly running on the pitch, throwing missiles on the pitch and racial abuse will harm the club’s standing and progression.
Question - Why is the club pushed around by the Police as regards fixture changes?
Andy said that for away games the club always makes its points to opposition clubs but ultimately the opposition police authority has the final say. For home games we have far more influence. Without Police agreement a game cannot take place. Millwall must work with the Police and maintain a relationship. Sometimes accommodating one decision leads to better outcomes in the future.
Question - You want more fans but your catering is awful. The food is over priced and inedible. What are your comments?
Andy said that the current caterers Lindleys, cater for some 50 stadiums throughout the country. They have to perform to the best of their abilities to get their profit. The spend per head at Millwall is one of the highest in the country and complaints to the MSC about catering were down last year.
If people are really fed up with the catering, Andy will host a meeting with the caterers and say 15 supporters who make it known to him that they wish to attend such a gathering.
Question - What are you doing about the poor PA System at the ground?
Andy said the club had spent some £140,000 in the summer to renew the System. It was not good at the Middlesbrough game and is suffering teething problems. It should be better for the Bournemouth home game.
Question - Are we going to hold a Help For Heroes Game this season for our forces?
Yes Peter has worked hard on this and it will be held at the Wycombe home game on 21st November.
Question - Do The Club look at how teams with lower fan bases, like Scunthorpe, operate with more success?
Andy said yes we are always looking at other teams to see how things can be done better.
Question - Why are clubs like MK Dons beating Millwall in player purchases?
Andy said I can only repeat that we offered Doumbe all he wanted but he chose to go elsewhere. May be he likes that part of the country.
Question - When will Lions Live return?
Bob said that Lions Live was a successful show and only went off air because the Radio Station had severe financial problems, and has lost its licence.
Local community radio seems to be favouring local youth projects and so the guys running the show are working hard to try and find a new home to get Lions Live running again, although unfortunately it will probably be on internet only. This will take a minimum of 4 weeks to achieve.
There being no other questions, the forum ended at 9.45pm
Millwall Supporters Club, c/o The Den,
London SE16 3LN -
phone: 07895 022 325 - email: firstname.lastname@example.org