Read the Chairman's notes from the Colchester United programmeGood afternoon Ladies and Gentleman, Girls and Boys and a very warm welcome back to MEMS Priestfield Stadium for the first fixture of our 2013/14 League One season. I would also like to welcome our friends from Colchester United and all the travelling supporters that have made the short journey down from Essex today. A special welcome also to U’s manager Joe Dunne who was a legend in his day at Priestfield and whilst we’re on the subject of legends one of our new initiatives this year is to invite past legends to be our special guests at every game this season and today it is my pleasure to welcome back Robert “Super Bob” Taylor who will be presented to the fans on the pitch and also be meeting with our executive club and vip members.
I am delighted to have been able to bring in four new faces to the club this summer, three of home need no introduction to our supporters having all played a part in the club’s recent success. Strikers Cody McDonald and Antonio German both enjoyed successful loan spells at Priestfield last season and both scored crucial goals in key fixtures to help the team clinch our first League Championship for 50 years. Bayo Akinfenwa, of course, made a huge impression on us all, in every sense of the word during his last stint at Priestfield, his is a quality player and a great character and I am delighted to see him back at the club while, having seen fellow new arrival Amine Linganzi play so impressively against us for Accrington last season, I’m certain he will be an important player for us this season. On that note I would also like to give my thanks and wish all the best of luck to Deon Burton, Andy Frampton, Lewis Montrose, Jack Payne and Tommy Forecast in their pastures new.
As always the close season has been a busy time for the club behind the scenes with significant reorganisation to help us move towards a stronger commercial team. We have worked hard to improve our facilities and our new Director of Sales and Marketing, Paulo Kingston-Correia is doing a fine job of developing new packages, new opportunities and new markets and is busy recruiting staff to carry out a number of functions.
I would like to say a big thank you to all our season ticket holders who have once again supported the team and the club this summer in record breaking numbers. You will notice that we are tightening security this season on season ticket book usage which is due to an abuse of the system by a minority of our supporters. We have not instigated a new policy but are tightening up on old policies whereby season ticket books are sold on the basis that they are for an individual and are not transferable, in the same way that a membership to a gold club or a health club is specific to the individual and is not useable by a group of people pooling together. We have been very clear about our intentions and the benefits of cheaper pricing and the many other benefits that go with season ticket ownership are for the benefit of the individual and not for groups.
One of the many jobs that occurred over the past six weeks was the departure of 12 packing cases containing lifesaving equipment such as heart/lung bypass machines, cardio scanning equipment and anaesthetic machines, which is currently on the high seas heading for Colombo in Sri Lanka. From there the kit will travel onwards to the Karapitaya Hospital where it will be installed and ready for the surgeons to operate on more children during our next Take Heart Mercy Mission on the 19th of September.
Talking of fundraising we were very pleased this summer to give our support to the club’s former Finance Director Roger Maddams who sadly lost his 17 year-old son Jack to cardiac arrest five years ago. Roger became heavily involved with the charity CRY, Cardiac Risk in the Young, which aims to raise awareness and help prevent sudden death syndrome and young cardiac death. Roger set up and organised Tour De Kent, a 200 mile countywide cycling challenge that set off and finished at Priestfield across the Whitsun Bank Holiday. Over 200 riders took part and incredibly Roger and his team were able to raise over £60,000 which will split between our official club charity Take Heart Mercy Mission and C.R.Y. This is an absolutely fantastic effort by Roger and he deserves great credit and great support as he is organising Tour De Kent 2014, details of which are elsewhere in today’s programme.
Make sure you get behind the lads this afternoon, let’s get Priestfield rocking and start life in League One as we mean to go on. Enjoy the match.
Up The Gills
Paul D.P. Scally