Watt’s Report

Clyde’s director of football Neil Watt contacted the official website as he reflected on the first quarter of the league season and his time to date at the Bully Wee… 

“We are living in a transitional period in football which is affecting clubs large and small. One glance at the sports pages on any day of the week will tell you this. The ones that come out at the other end in tact will be those clubs who have put robust structures in place for the long term. Football, for far too long, has been about the short term.

“I was under no illusion, when I came into my new role as Director of Football at Clyde, that I was dealing with a football club in distress.  The facts were undeniably plain – and stark – financial turmoil…a team relegated… no playing staff… uncertainty. Could it be worse – and why would somebody want to become involved?

“In my last website interview on 9 August, I stated that I wanted to “observe and look at the whole club”. There is no point in jumping in with both feet without having a base of knowledge upon which to form opinions. I have been able to form a view on the 3 most important areas affecting the football club at the moment. Firstly, the financial aspects of the club and its ongoing dealings with North Lanarkshire Council and our new landlord, North Lanarkshire Leisure Trust, secondly, the current Board structure and thirdly, football matters.

“I fully understand fans wish to be kept more up to date with ongoing dealings with our former and new landlords, but hopefully they will also appreciate the sensitivity of such information. More of the current position will be reported by the club elsewhere but in relation to my ability to move football matters forward, I consider that the club at the moment is engaged in healthy and positive discussions with NLC/NLLT and both parties have committed to trying to find a solution to Clyde’s current difficulties caused by a lease which is not conducive to the workings of the club. Secondly, I am involved in debate over the future of the structure of the club and I am satisfied there is a strong will for change but understandably some questions and issues still require to be resolved.  This matter must move forward quickly to ensure the future of the club. As I have said before, football issues are the main area that fans are interested in but the importance of the other two items I have mentioned cannot be underestimated, simply to enable us to have a product on the pitch.

“Turning to football matters, clearly, I was not involved in the club before this season. I can only comment on matters I have witnessed since I took up my role on 1st August 2009. As a football manager, I always felt the most appropriate time in a season to review matters on the pitch was at the end of the first and second quarters of the season. By the end of the first quarter, we have seen every other team in the Division and had a feel for how we would fit in to the league overall.  We are just past that point at the moment. At the conclusion of the second quarter, the January transfer window gives us the opportunity of juggling the playing squad.

“Without going over old ground, I feel it is worthwhile reminding ourselves where we have come from. At the start of pre-season we were a club in turmoil. There was a complete rebuilding job to be done. In my view, the first quarter, or three months, was about delivering a team on the pitch as a starting point and then trying to build from there. Against that background was a club fighting to survive. Pre-season started a long, long way behind any other club in the country. In my time in football, I can’t remember a club beginning from a base of having NO players. Not only did we start the season with no players, we had to endure a transitional period reverting from a full-time club to part-time status. This has a big impact on the club as a whole and its staff adjusting to a new way of working. It impacts particularly on the manager where he has to very quickly understand and deal with new part-time players in a new environment. At a time that we were starting the trials and trying to enlist a team, other teams had a strong nucleus of a squad built up over several seasons.  Most part-time teams in the country will retain probably a minimum of 12 to 14 players each season and then add 7 or 8 during pre-season and during the transfer window. Clyde started with no players and within 4 to 5 weeks had acquired 16. So from that perspective, Clyde has been playing catch-up for the last 4 months.

“Inevitably the first quarter was always going to be the most difficult. Apart from the fact we had 5 away games and 4 home games, the manager was dealing with a completely new squad of players where he had to get to know all about them as individuals and all about them as players. Team selections and team formations were inevitably going to vary as the manager attempted to build a basis for a team to take us forward in the season ahead. The fact that we have already used 26 players is evidence of that and this week again we will be playing a trialist. The squad is still being built. Since day 1, I firmly believe that performances and results have improved. The manager has assured the Board that he feels the team will get stronger as the season progresses and I share his belief. We have a solid base of players which we can build upon. Clearly there is a wish for some more experience to be brought into the squad but this was never going to be an option over pre-season.

“My short-term goal of ensuring we had a squad of players to represent the football club, to build a solid foundation for us to move forward on to the next stage of trying to bring more quality into the team, has been achieved. There has been, I believe, progress over the last month.

“We have an honest hard working group of players and an equally hard working management staff and recent results have boosted the players and management. Winning football matches brings about confidence and a consistency in play. The group is very ambitious to progress and at the end of the first quarter we are by no means isolated, as many predicted.

“After a difficult start to the season we feel that there are opportunities for our younger players and this has to be the way forward for a club like Clyde. The manager recognises this and believes in this and the structures that are in place in the youth department will hopefully ensure that in years ahead, there is a steady stream of talent coming through to the first team. Last Saturday at Stirling we had four, 17-year-olds in our squad.

“As a football club we have a huge amount ahead of us but our focus must be in making sure that everything we do is affordable. There has been a decline in income streams, partly caused by our loss of Division 1 status and partly caused by inaccurate and unfortunate press reporting. The best thing any Clyde supporter can do at the moment is invest in their club by coming along to every home game or as often as possible and showing your support to the players. A lot of our players are new to the professional game or if they have been in the professional game, have suffered knocks and set-backs and need their confidence built up. I would like to see more or a rapport between the players and fans and this can only be to everyone’s benefit.

“In the meantime, I will continue to go about my business in the background providing support to the football management staff and continue to piece together structures to put in place for the long term sustainability of the football club. The Chairman and the Board have given me terrific support in trying to reshape the football activities of the club. I appreciate this and would like to open this up in the fullness of time to another supporters’ evening where I can take the views of the fans.

“As the famous American Major League Baseball player, Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going you will end up some place else”. Well I believe at Clyde we know where we are going and we know where we want to get to, there are a lot of things that are conspiring against us at the moment and at times like this it is important that we all pull in the same direction and I would urge all supporters to get behind your team, pull in the same direction and ensure that we don’t end up some place else, but exactly where we want to be. There is no doubt there will be more difficult and challenging times ahead but I believe that our short to medium term aims of survival, and sustainability in this Division are achievable.”