Fort William will approach the new season with renewed enthusiasm, after a behind-the-scenes reshuffle which will give manager Danny Conlon funds to strengthen his squad, http://www.hflhub.com can reveal.
A group of five prominent local businessmen were elected onto the Claggan Park board at last night’s AGM in a major restructure which will see Fort run as a community trust.
Ronnie MacLean was elected as the new chairman of the club, with Margaret Byron and Marie MacMillan remaining as secretary and treasurer respectively. Former chairman John Wattsman has also returned, this time as vice-chairman.
The running of the Lochaber side will now be split into two bodies. The five-man board - Stewart MacLean, Gerald MacIntyre, Drew Purdon, Stewart Leitch as well as current assistant manager Michael McEachan – will assume control of the financing of the club, and will aim to use their business acumen to source future funding.
Meanwhile a committee of thirteen will continue to take charge of day-to-day, and matchday running of the club.
Manager Danny Conlon is confident the changes will have a positive effect on his side.
“These are massive changes that will strengthen the club and hopefully make my job a wee bit easier. There may now be some sort of cashflow coming in to help my position.
“The new board has given me the go-ahead to source players from anywhere, to go and look for players to see what deals I can get done, and then go back to them and see how they can help. It’s not going to be a massive pot of gold, but it will certainly help me. Once the guys are bedded in it will be a massive help to us.”
“Two of the guys who have come in have had previous spells at the club, so know the problems and the issues Fort William face, and they know the Highland League scene.”
One position that Conlon is in no doubt he has to strengthen is between the sticks, with Fort having relied heavily on short-term loan deals over the last two years to cover the position. The likes of Stewart Gray, Daniel Bell, Robbie Donaldson and recently Kyle Robertson have come and gone, but Conlon urged any goalkeeper interested in making a more permanent move to Claggan Park to contact him.
“It is my job to strengthen the squad, and one thing we really need is a good goalkeeper who is going to be available for the whole season. Where I get him from I don’t know, I’ve been chasing various contacts to see if I can sign one. That is a priority position.
“There is always a big problem with where we are, and financially we can’t compete with most teams. But I’m hoping this will open a few doors for me and make Fort William more attractive. I think once we get one or two good players on board, that can have a snowball effect, and that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Fort have struggled for a long time to get a settled team on the park, as Conlon outlined in yesterday’s End of Term Report Card which can be found on www.hflhub.co.uk. He spoke of how difficult it has been to recruit players.
“I have compiled a list, and over the two seasons we have probably lost about 22 to 24 players for various reasons – education, work, some guys that probably weren’t good enough, and some who don’t really want to put the commitment in.
“Our catchment area has a summer pub league with six teams. One is from Mallaig, one is from Kinlochleven, Ballachulish area, leaving four from Fort William. From that there’s probably about 60 players. I’m then expected to get 20 of them to play Highland League football.
“It seems impossible. Therefore if any player wants to play for us I urge them to get in contact with me. The one thing you are guaranteed at Fort William is game time.
“Losing so many players makes it very difficult to get a settled team. I believe being manager of Fort William for one season can be like being a manager for three or four years elsewhere.”
“We felt we were rudderless, as if we didn’t have anything at all. Some of the players were there last night which shows that they were concerned. They got a massive boost from it, as did the whole club. The attendance at the AGM last night was superb and showed that people don’t want to see football in our area die.”