New Barnstaple football chairman to build bridges with town
CHANGING public perceptions and raising awareness are vital if Barnstaple Town are to thrive.
New chairman Warren Crossley is positive the crisis-hit club has a long-term future in the Toolstation Western League.
But he is well aware of the work that needs to be done.
At Mill Road on Tuesday, Crossley told the Journal about his plans to reinvigorate a club with more than 100 years of history.
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He said: "I was speaking to a lad who has lived in Barnstaple for 21 years and I said, 'You need to get down to the next game'. He said, 'To be honest, I don't even know where the ground is'."
The town's apparent lack of interest in its football club is something Crossley hopes to put right.
After fears they may be forced to pull out of the league, he is already planning with cautious optimism for next season.
"For a town of this size, I'm struggling to understand how we can't make a go of it," he said.
"The message that needs to be relayed to the public is that we are OK.
"We will get through the season and we will be there next season but we are never going to compete and be where we should be without help from as many individuals and companies as possible."
As a young player, Crossley, now 43, represented his home town Harrogate during the 1980s.
Later he worked in scouting and youth development for Leeds United and believes bringing youngsters through is the way forward.
The longstanding problem of the best young players in Barnstaple not playing for Town is something he hopes to address.
"When you walk into the ground, it's a semi-professional set-up," said Crossley.
"The facilities and playing surface are second to none but the best local talent would rather go to Rock Park to play and that baffles me.
"If you are 18 and a good footballer from the town, you should be playing here.
"I don't know what has gone on in the past but we need to build bridges.
"I don't see the future being us having players from Exeter or Plymouth."
The immediate future concerns staying in the premier division where Barnstaple are three points adrift at the bottom.
Manager Dave Griffiths has been working to improve the squad and find stability after a season of chopping and changing.
"We realise we have got to bring in three or four players," said Crossley.
"There are ongoing discussions with Dave Griffiths and various players in the area.
"We are backing him to bring in some experienced players.
"I'm hoping by the new year we'll have a much better squad.
"We have used 33 players already this season and you can't go on like that.
"Pinching players from here and there, no disrespect but it's almost like you're running a pub team.
"When players get offered a fiver more to go and play somewhere else, I can't get my head around that. That mentality has got to change."
Despite concerns of a cash-flow crisis raised at the recent emergency meeting, Crossley is happy the club is on a sound financial footing.
Last month, Barnstaple received a large bill from South West Water who have since identified a leak at the ground.
Crossley is optimistic the club will only have to pay their usual amount of £300 per quarter rather than the £2,500 demanded.
To enter the FA Cup next season, Barnstaple must build steps and railings by the grass bank near the changing rooms.
It is estimated the work will cost £5,000 and the chairman has applied for grants through the FA.
Within the next few weeks, the club website will be relaunched after not being updated for months.
Crossley will work with Lorna Childs, the new commercial manager, to increase income.
"The main way the club is going to raise money is through the clubhouse," he said.
"I think there's massive potential there.
"The facilities are for hire for wedding receptions, birthday parties, aerobics classes and clubs."
The public meeting planned to take place at Mill Road on Thursday, November 15 will still go ahead.
"It will give me the opportunity to meet people and for people to get to know me and ask any questions," said Crossley who is the South West commercial manager for a national tiling company and moved to Barnstaple in the spring.
He is encouraging potential sponsors or club volunteers to get in touch.To find out more, call him on 01271 411411 or 07943 105227.