Barnoldswick Chairman hoping to unlock the clubs potential

Tue 6th June 2023 | Barnoldswick Town
By Gary Langley

It was quite a season at Barnoldswick Town, a good start in the league and progression through to the second round of the Isuzu FA Vase and some impressive results, however, only four wins in all competitions since the turn of the year saw Barnoldswick finish a couple of places above the relegation zone. With Barnoldswick perennial dark horses in the Premier Division for a number of seasons we spoke this week with their Chairman, Nigel Hill, who took time out to talk to us about how the season has gone from his perspective, what progress looks like for them and also the various speculation about boundary changes by the FA Leagues Committee.

We started by speaking about the general life of a Football Club Chairman, has he got time to take stock or does he think (like we do!) that its one of the busiest times of the football year!

“Definitely no chance to put my feet up, it’s just as busy at this time of year, if not busier! Throughout the season you get to treat away games almost like a day off as you can let the home club do most of the administration and work for putting a match day on. At this time of the year though we are all hands on deck and getting our house in order. We came to a decision around four years ago that we couldn’t always rely on sponsorship income and ticket sales to keep us going, so we concentrated on getting the club house sorted out and in place as our primary source of income. We are hosting events and functions and are lucky to be booked a fair way through the summer as well as having the likes of Christenings, Weddings and funerals here on a regular basis.  It's a community facility and one of the better ones around and people want to come here and bring their special events.”

“In between events we are all working on getting that painted, everything deep cleaned. Our Committee is only 6-7 in number but we are all busy, all preparing for the new season, repairing things and keeping the business going. Stick a full-time job into the mix and rest is quite often a luxury, you know what it’s like of an evening, you sit down with a cup of tea and the phone goes and that’s your evening gone, but that’s kind of how it goes.”

Looking back at the last couple of seasons, we touched on the fact there that many perhaps regard Barnoldswick as dark horses for promotion each season with access to the gritty East Lancs and West Yorkshire player pools. We asked Nigel what his thoughts were on how Barnoldswick have faired over the last couple of seasons in particular?

“Being totally honest I have to say we are massively under-achieving, there maybe a bit of bias in that, however, given the facilities we have, player pool that we have and budget I feel that we could have been aiming for top ten, maybe top eight but it just hasn’t happened. We recently lost 5 key players, one to injury and four to other clubs but whilst we have access to quite a big player pool, players will always get attracted to town clubs closer to home and when you have a strong player base from the likes of Preston, Manchester, Burnley and so-on it’s difficult to keep hold of players at times.”

“We have noticed a trend at clubs at our level of going down the contract route and whilst we see why they do it, I personally don’t think its feasible at this level. Loyalty is a rare thing these days and players generally play for the manager, it’s increasingly rare that a player will play for a club but as a club we will always make players welcome and feel part of the club community.”

“Looking back to the season before last, we did ok, we had potential to do more than we did. Last season thing’s just didn’t go our way, we had a good run in the Vase and tried to bring in a number of youth players but we just struggled to get results mid-way through the season and since Christmas only had 4-5 wins and finished up a lot closer to the relegation zone than we would have liked. We have fresh plans in place for next season and as a club we are hoping to get things going again on the field next season and challenge at the right end of the table.”

What about progression, despite the intermittent finishes do you feel that Barnoldswick have progressed both on and off the field?

“Well, certainly off the field and I certainly feel that we are in a position to try and go a league higher. All is in place and we always try and do things right, we keep our house in order and our facilities ready for a match day. When Geoff (Wilkinson, Ground Grading Chairman) comes here he doesn’t have too much to worry about and we don’t keep him busy. We always try and keep our admin in order and try and keep clear of league fines, we have a fantastic Club Secretary in Alyson Hames, she is so well organised and keeps the club on the straight and narrow.”

Obviously given your location and the various Council boundary changes for Barnoldswick throughout history, football has been undergoing its own reallocations and lateral moves of late, some quite controversial and some subject to further actions. That said, does the club monitor its current League situation and consider the potential risks of a lateral move and furthermore even prepare a contingency for it?

“Obviously we have been aware of it for a couple of seasons and the potential for being laterally moved. We are aware of what has happened with other clubs in the division too and we would be in a similar situation should we ever be moved. We have no players from Yorkshire, all of our players and management are from Lancashire and we see ourselves as a Lancashire Club. If we were to be moved it would rip the heart out of the club and whilst aware of the possible risks, we don’t really have a contingency plan in place for it. We have done some numbers and on average our travelling distance in the NWCFL is around 32 miles each way with a few games that have 60+. If we were to go to the Yorkshire League at any point, we would have 6-7 games 90 Miles plus.  Whilst we acknowledge the risk, we would like to think that the reality of the logistics would make it an unappealing option.”

How is the preparation going for the new season? And are you a Chairman that sets targets for their Manager or are you one for letting the Management team set the targets?

“We always say that we have an idea of where we are as a club off the park and where we could be on it. Our main aims, this and every season would be improvement throughout the season through the first team, Under 23’s/reserves. Ultimately top ten, hopefully top eight but we don’t worry too much about the overall position but are open and honest about the fact that we think we could do well. We just need a couple of things to go our way.”

And that said about targets, what would you say a successful season looks like for Barnoldswick for 2023-24?

“Probably what I’ve mentioned Gary, we certainly would like to see a massive improvement on league position and we will always look to work with the management team to help them bring in some new players ahead of the new season. We have a strong coaching staff here who are ambitious, capable and looking to do well with the team, so I expect we will give it a go next season and see where we are at come christmas and hopefully we will be challenging on a few fronts.  Off the park we would like to remain stable as a business as well as getting a few more folks through the door, we can average 290 here when things are ok but at times last season we were down to around 140. Admittedly when Burnley do well, a number of our supporters can be over there but when we do well, we can offer a viable alternative for their ticket fee. We have a nice facility which is clean and tidy, well appointed and a place where people can come and enjoy football. Stability is massive for us and we will take that every time, but we have potential to do more than that.”

Many thanks to Nigel for his time and we wish him well for the new season

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