Official Meeting Minutes
Kenny Jackett was given a warm welcome when Wolves Fans' Parliament members met last night for the first time this season. Matt Grayson explained that the minutes from Kenny’s Q&A would appear on the website in the morning, with part two of the minutes, including Fans’ agenda items, to appear later.
The head coach kicked off proceedings by saying how privileged he felt to be here and how much he was looking forward to the rest of a season that has started promisingly.
"The response has been fantastic from the group of players, considering the amount of changes we've made," he said. "The relationship with the supporters had broken down and my first job is to pull the players together to over-achieve. It's work in progress.
"There is a considerable amount of talent here, including youngsters who have come in the first team and made their mark. You always want young, hungry players. There's a very good crop and some more behind. It's my job to mould and bring through that talent and turn this into a winning team."
When asked by Steve Parkes why he had wanted to take the job as opposed to being in the Championship with Millwall, he added: "I saw fantastic potential at what I regard as one of the country's genuinely big clubs. The timing was right on a personal level. I didn't hesitate and saw it as a fantastic opportunity."
The meeting was live on-line and the first question posed by a blogger referred to the situation with Roger Johnson and Jamie O'Hara. "It's very quiet," Kenny said. "There have been tentative enquiries over the last couple of months and their objective is to keep themselves fit for the next challenge. They will get their training games and under-21 games."
Clive Smith congratulated Dean Saunders' successor on understanding the psyche of the club very quickly and was told: "I went for a series of interviews where I put my own feelings forward. I (previously) tried to move Danny Batth away from your clutches and am now glad I didn't. I also thought Leigh Griffiths was a genuinely exciting player, so I had an enthusiasm for some of the players who weren't even in the team here. The relationship between players and supporters is important and you have to give some down-to-earth ethics. Also, I think people want to see teams build from the back but also see a pattern going forward that attacks the opposition. I put those views forward. We started training a week early on June 24 and I had enough time to mould a team for going forward."
To a remark from Greg Asbury that it seemed strange Roger Johnson and Jamie O'Hara could go on being a 'drain' on the club, Kenny said: "A number of players have gone and that has been good business. But these two are the most high-profile. It needs someone to come in and pay a decent amount and not let them walk all over us. It's also a question of how long the players can wait. My press conferences earlier were all about the players not in the side. I want it to be about Lee Evans, Leigh Griffiths, Aaron McCarey or others." Chief Executive Jez Moxey followed up by pointing out: "We can afford to keep paying them. I think some clubs thought we would be a pushover because we're in League One but we're certainly not."
Kenny responded to Tom Bason's question about the differences between his Wolves role and that as Millwall manager by pointing out the 'considerable support structure' in place here. "My delegation is considerable and it needs to be. The sports science department's job, for example, is to keep 85% of the players fit for the majority of the games. All of the areas like sports science and scouting can turn their work into points (in the table).
"Good scouting is planning 18 months or two years ahead. There's no point having an injury one day and then starting scouting. You get caught out. We need to know the market in Britain and know every good young player, whether it might be for our under-21s or to go into the first team. We monitor a lad's play and character and do our background checks so we don't make a mistake."
There was praise from the floor for keeping Bakary Sako and Kevin Doyle beyond the transfer window - credit the head coach thought should be directed instead at Steve Morgan. "He needs to be thanked for his stance on it," he added. "He was very consistent in as much as it (their departure) would always have had to be for a considerable offer that would suit Wolves." He also said contract talks were on-going with Danny Batth - 'a player and person I have a lot of time for.' "From the chairman downwards, we are committed to his long-term future here."
Jeff Bagnall was delighted that some reconnecting with supporters had occurred during the first few weeks of 2013-14 and had noted that the players now warmed up at the other end. "You always thank the supporters for coming and for their backing because you need them," Kenny said. "One player at Port Vale had a pack of ice on and a few were drifting away, and it's not right. So far, I've been listening rather than talking on which end we warm up but I think you just try something different (after two unhappy years)." Jeff said the fans were back on side with the team.
Dave Benton asked how the buying of players worked now and was told: "Kevin Thelwell has had the scouting structure in place since just after Christmas. They will go through lists of players and I'll sit with them and add my opinions. We haven't ventured too far outside the list but, going forward, we'll have to. In terms of League One, it's mainly domestic with some long-term work to go abroad and to go for younger players to replenish the under-18s. Kevin and me will make our recommendations and put them to Jez to go to the chairman." Jez said the process was an on-going, every-day thing. Kenny referred to having signed only three players to date (Sam Ricketts, Kevin McDonald and Scott Golbourne) but felt he would have been backed had he asked for several more.
Another question from the blog asked whether the squad were strong enough. "I'm quite pleased with it," Kenny said. "It's developing. I don't think there's a hole in it. With form, injuries or suspensions, it can change but we're not necessarily looking for loans right now. If there's a need - and we review it game by game - we'll do it. I wouldn't want other players coming in from the Premier League and halting the development of our own young players. Fair enough if they're better or in a position where we need it. Otherwise, it just gives you a short-term fix, and long-term development is our aim." To a blogger's enquiry about the possible need for more experience, he added: "I don't think the squad lacks experience. There is a high number of young players but that doesn't mean we can't be successful."
Ian Smith asked about the future of Wayne Hennessey and was told: "He has been injured for 18 months and has top-class potential to get back to where he was. It suits all parties that he continues getting his games in with Yeovil. Aaron McCarey is promising and I understand we will then have to make a decision about our keepers."
Kenny assured Stephen Galloway that he leads training every day - a part of the job he really enjoyed. "I didn't (initially) think the concentration and discipline were the best. There was a very good sports science department which was perhaps being under-used. We have got to bring some honest values to the players. The players have responded and responded well with their time-keeping and personal discipline. When the winter months come, this is where they need to be diligent to be as fit as possible."
In answering a question from the blog about away support, Kenny used the word 'unbelievable.' "Our following has been higher than some clubs' home support in this division and they have been passionate and noisy. It's our challenge to keep it going and keep it at that level."
Mark Griffiths asked, in the event of Wolves getting past Notts County in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, how serious the club would be about winning it because that would 'bring the feel-good factor back.' As for the argument about concentrating on the League, he said: "We have been relegated twice and won nothing." Jez asked those present which prize they would prefer the club to win and, after originally being told 'both,' heard promotion named as the main target. Kenny said: "If it's possible to do both, yes we would. We have fielded our strongest team available in the cups. I wanted to settle the team down. After all those weeks off in the summer and then for players to need a rest a couple of games into the season....it doesn't make sense, does it? Games are good experience for young players. If McCarey now has to play in the League, he will benefit from having played in that Walsall game. Also, in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, there are restrictions and you have to play six of your previous team or six of your following team. I may make two or three changes but say we still have to win."
Steve Phillips referred to Kenny as 'a man well respected in the game' and asked him about his hopes for promotion. The answer was: "It won't be easy and we shouldn't underestimate the motivation of the opposition but we shouldn't be frightened of it. This is a genuinely big club but we're all confident we can do it if we make the right decisions. It's something I am confident we can achieve."
A blogger enquired how the new boys had settled in and whether they were aware of how important the success of the club was. Kenny mentioned recently signed youngsters Eusebio and Torras and said: "They have come into the under-21 group and I don't think their senior debuts are imminent. Eusebio is working hard at learning the language but you have to help them and support them. If we sign foreign players, you have to have the support structure in place."
Jeff Bagnall said there seemed to have been a sea change in attitude with players now wanting to come to the club. "Hogan Ephraim has gone in the press and said he wants to come," he pointed out. Kenny responded by saying he felt it was important the club kept their transfer targets quiet and private as it was more professional to announce signings only when they were made. "You'll be amazed at the amount of enquiries a club makes and the number you try to sign," he added. "You need to know the market and you have to update constantly. Being organised and keeping our own counsel does help."
To a question from Dave Benton as to whether he wanted to change the philosophy of the academy and bring players through in a different way, Kenny pointed to his own thorough background in player development and said. "My views will be alongside the people in that department. It's a very good academy. I was head of youth at Watford for six years and they consistently produced a high amount of players, then I was reserve manager at Manchester City. They had an excellent academy, so I've seen it from different angles and feel I have a lot to offer. But it moves on and the amount of people level one and level two academies have now is considerable.....it's not just one man and his dog." Jez Moxey pointed out that the old St Edmund's School building would soon be razed to the ground to make room for a magnificent new indoor academy building to go up.
Mark Griffiths asked Kenny if he knew Leigh Griffiths was going to celebrate his recent goal at Port Vale as he did and was told: "No and I didn't know he was going to nutmeg Lee Hughes straight afterwards." Mark repeated Jeff Bagnall's point about players reconnecting with fans. "He's a talented lad but we haven't done anything yet and now is the time we really have to work," the head coach added. "We have made some strides towards connecting but our work is ahead of us now. The players have shown they can do it. Leigh has got off the mark with a few goals but he has got to deliver the season he is capable of. If we can create chances, I'm confident he can finish them."
Preparation for matches was on the mind of a blogger who enquired about overnight stays. "We haven't stayed overnight for any game yet, not even Bristol City," Kenny said. "If you stop players being independent, you stop them being as good as people."
Simon Wade asked if certain players might have been further ahead in their development but for what he called 'being held back by previous regimes'. Kenny said: "They don't look like they are worried about that. Danny Batth has won promotion from this division before with Sheffield Wednesday and Zeli Ismail has so much talent with a low centre of gravity, and is very two-footed. Being so highly rated as a youngster can be hard to bear."
Anthony Pickford referred to an apparent improvement in discipline and was told: "It's either discipline or just direction. We have to be the most professional team in this division because our resources are better. I want the players realising that their careers will benefit if they are professional. We have to move with those times." Tom Bate enquired about the policy on young players going out, possibly on late nights. "In their contracts, it says they are not allowed on licensed premises 48 hours or fewer before a game and they have to act in a fit and proper way," Kenny said. "Their challenge is to be as fit and prepared as possible. You can't have players who burn the candle at both ends. They have to be diligent and professional. There is a balance but they must respect their body and respect the club. If someone doesn't, you ask whether it's just a case of young lads being young lads or are they on the wrong track? And how many are they taking with them?"
To Clive Smith's point about the various sides to Bakary Sako's game. Kenny said: "He's worth persevering with but, with many flair players, there's a down-side. It's quite easy at full-back or midfielder to be a regular 7 out of 10 but not everyone can play a safe game and I think he's well worth backing and I wouldn't want him not trying to do things. Trust me....you need the Sakos around to find the winning formula. He's a conscientious player and a decent lad. I have a lot of time for him. He was honest with me about not being in the right frame of mind for the Port Vale game and it was my decision to leave him out. So you then challenge the players: Are we a one-man team who have to wait for him to come back next week or are we going to go and win the game without him?" Jez referred to the winger being 'a great pro, although he wouldn't have expected to be in League One with us.' Kenny said he wouldn't want to play a player who wasn't committed.
Greg Asbury asked whether Kenny had moved his family to the Wolverhampton area and was told: "Yes, I have, and my son is attending a school locally.”
Back on football issues, a blogger asked if Bjorn Sigurdarson would be considered as an out-and-out forward. He also referred to Kevin Foley having suffered an 'alarming dip in form'. Kenny replied: "Bjorn will do well. He has flitted between wide right and central. I think his assets are for through the middle. He has pace and power. We're a bit short wide on the right but have Anthony Forde (in reserve) and, after that, Bjorn is next. Kevin Foley has been unlucky because the form of Matt Doherty has been excellent. He has the shirt and will be hard to shift. Kevin had a stop-start pre-season but is fine now and is a top professional. I don't think Kevin is a winger. He is an attacking full-back. In my humble opinion, he is one you play on the right to stop the opposition rather than go and attack them."
Lesley Matile remarked that fans watching from around her had been impressed with how Kenny had handled himself in what had been 'a great start' to the season. Parliament Chairman Matt Grayson pointed out that there had been 19 questions from members and 15 from the blog in about 75 minutes. He then thanked Kenny, who received warm applause for his contribution to the meeting, for giving up his time.
On the subject of booking fees that Dave Benton had previously queried, Head of Ticketing and Membership Lynne O'Reardon said she hoped fans realised the club had now removed the £1.50 charge for tickets printed off by supporters. The fans applauded the officials for the decision. She said printing had to be on A4 paper, though, and she and Chief Executive Jez Moxey acknowledged there had been some teething problems. "Like every new initiative, it takes time to settle down," he said. "But this will eradicate some inconvenience. People can't say we haven’t done everything we can to make getting a ticket easier." Lynne said the operation would speed up as stewards became more familiar with it too. Daniel Cartwright said the process had worked 'brilliantly' for he and his family recently, with the relevant information loaded on to his member’s smartcard. Jeff Bagnall also said it worked perfectly but a possible downfall was fans using poor quality printers. Tom Bason said there had been a huge improvement in supporter attitude and asked that the club carried on doing those little things for the fans. He was delighted with the attendance against Walsall recently. There was also enthusiasm when Lynne asked whether fans would welcome being able to ring an 01902 number again on ticket matters if one were introduced. Jez said the problems at the Gillingham game were a safety issue and Matt said the club would like fans to arrive earlier.
There was a suggestion to drop beer prices at the stadium, so fans wouldn't come down so late from city centre pubs. And Head of Commercial Affairs Paul Lakin revealed that a promotion had been brought in for the Swindon game tomorrow - of £2.50 a pint from 1.30pm to 2.30pm. Dave Benton said it should ideally be announced sooner because people made their match-day plans early. "It needs to be on-going," he said. "If you can do it for four or five games, it would help." Paul explained that each game needed to be assessed on merit and for example, we wouldn’t be able to do the promotion for Walsall on Tuesday night due to police concerns. On the general subject of late arriving, Jez said: "We can't delay kick-offs just because there are fans outside." Lynne added: "We can't continue to do that, otherwise fans won't come earlier anyway. People will expect the kick-off to be delayed." Mark Griffiths said stewards were 'ambling around' and 'could have let us know things were building up outside' at the Gillingham game. Jez said: "If we keep scoring early, hopefully supporters will get in the habit of arriving earlier."
On another matter brought forward - water trickling from the roof of the upper tier of the new Stan Cullis Stand on to fans below - Matt said he had been told by the stadium manager that a gulley had now been installed. He asked Parliament members to let the club know as best they could if the measure was working.
Daniel Cartwright asked if the North Bank bar could be renamed in honour of Dave Wagstaffe but was told by Jez that the club were keen not to dilute the name 'North Bank'. Matt said: "We created the museum and Hall of Fame to honour our players and if you do something else for one player, you may be expected to do it for more. There's nothing for Derek Dougan, for example, outside the ground but he's in the Hall of Fame."
Hilary Clews asked about the toaster banner that had appeared this season in the Stan Cullis Stand and was told by Paul Lakin that it would be looked at again by the club towards Christmas. Jez said: "We wanted something highly visible from the fans that would get their attention - something that isn't corporate Wolves. I'd like the stadium to have more visible fan input." Jez told Julian Dent that a digital clock might be considered as the stadium evolved.
To an enquiry from Tom Bate as to why the scoreboards were still in place, Jez said: "There's a possibility they might be resurrected. To film and edit something that's worth watching on them is very expensive. It's just not a priority for us. When we stopped using them, we didn't have any complaints." He responded to a suggestion from the floor that Sky programmes be shown on there by saying that could entail very high costs.
Tom Bason asked where the club were with the fair play regulations and wondered what the ramifications of keeping Kevin Doyle and Bakary Sako were. Jez answered: "We're absolutely fine. Players signed in the Premier League do not count against you in fair play calculations in League 1. We're one of the lowest in financial fair play calculations. The more substantive point is how can we afford it in reality and I think we have been successful in loaning a number of players. But we have contracts and we have to honour them, although it's painful." As a general point, he added: "Clubs will find a way round FFP. By having it, I think you are discouraging people from investing in the game which is madness."
Lesley Matile asked what had happened off the field in the wake of relegation. Jez said: "Approximately 20 people left from a staff of about 165. There was some natural wastage, some were made redundant. Some have left and not been replaced. We fought hard to make sure it didn't go too deep."
Keith Bickley said there had been talk of gloomy news in terms of figures on the next balance sheet but Jez replied: "Steve (Morgan) is an expert at running businesses. We're working on our accounts now and you'll be the first to see the results and hear the explanation. I'd still say we are in as good a shape as anybody over a five or six-year period. To me, football clubs accounts viewed in isolation of one year are pretty meaningless."
To an observation that the showing of live matches was causing congestion and safety issues on the concourse of the Steve Bull Stand, Paul Lakin promised the matter would be monitored. "Everything was on hold because the Steve Bull was the next phase of the redevelopment. If it (the screening of games) is deemed safe, it will carry on."
When Greg Asbury revisited an old chestnut by asking why the club didn't disclose transfer fees, Jez said: "We talk about money too much in football. Putting a price tag on an expensive player can lead to fans expectations increasing and expect someone to be a star in every game. More and more clubs are doing what we do. It's commercially sensitive information." He asked back: "Why is it so important you know the fees?" Greg said: "Perhaps we consider Wolves to be our club and we want to know where the money is going" - a point Steve Phillips agreed with. Simon Wade said it appeared the news of Kevin McDonald's signing had come out before it actually happened. Jez said he was urging the club's media department to be less sensitive if there were leaks elsewhere. "Rather than deny something that was obvious or stay quiet, I thought we would announce it as the player convinced us he was going to come and we wouldn’t get gazumped," he said.
Steve Parkes asked how confident Jez was that Steve Morgan had learned from what he called his 'rash' football decisions. "I thought he employed people like you and Kevin Thelwell to make football decisions," Steve added. Jez said: "The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have all been hurt and shed tears over this. He will have learned from the experience. I have, we all have." Dave Benton asked Jez what he himself had learned from the last three years. Jez responded: "Everyone has different opinions. There isn't necessarily a consensus. However, I believe I know 95% plus as to what went wrong and why but it's pretty easy to be smart with hindsight. I can't explain my opinion in an open forum but.....living, sleeping, breathing it, I think I know exactly what went wrong.”
When asked about his view on spending money on wages spent for players where Jez once said in the PL ‘your wage bill correlates to your finishing leage position’, the Chief Executive said. “Yes I did say that, and I believe it to be true when you consider it over a five to six year PL period. But it's not just about wages as to who finishes the higher in any given season. While Steve Morgan is a very wealthy guy and has committed tens of millions of pounds to Wolves and underwriting any future losses, there's only so much the Club can do. The only thing that matters is getting this club back to the Championship to start again. In terms of our resources, I feel we should be between sixth in the Championship as a minimum and as far up the Premier League as we can get. But, at the moment, we are preparing to face Swindon Town on Saturday. We are where we are and that’s the only focus."
Paul Lakin addressed Tom Bate's enquiry as to how the club were performing corporate-wise by saying they had had a slow summer and needed a winning start. "Having budgeted and allowed for that, we will be there or thereabouts on budget with a fair wind," he said. "We need the team to do well. We want them flying high to reinvigorate the fans. Advertising is good and, with sponsorship, we've done particularly well. We have retained partners."
Dennis Green, secretary of Wolves' Disabled Supporters Association (DSA), raised the difficulty of one member of the group being told they needed loyalty points to obtain a ticket for the game at Shrewsbury. He asked for clarification because he said the matter wasn't mentioned at all last season and he hadn't seen it advertised. Lynne said the matter was addressed on the ticket information in the usual places and hadn’t arisen in 2012-13 because ticket allocations always proved sufficient. To the news that tickets might be bought through Colchester for the game there in October, she replied that loyalty points could only be awarded if they were purchased through Wolves.
Darren Cash, who is a wheelchair user, said he couldn't book on-line (that facility isn’t available if a free carer’s ticket is being obtained as well), he couldn't purchase an away season ticket and had the extra difficulty of living 70 miles away. "I had my phone bill through and the minimum time for me waiting on the line to be answered was 30 minutes and the maximum was 55 minutes. For Preston, I had to make five calls over four days and it's doubled my phone bill. The same people go week in week out and, once you get through, we're still stuck with the booking fee - and I previously had to pay £1.50 booking fee for a carer's ticket that was free." Lynne said there shouldn't have been a booking fee on a zero-rated ticket like that and Lynne and Matt promised to take the whole matter up with the DSA. Dennis still said Wolves were way ahead of other clubs in League One, though, because he had had replies from only four clubs after circulating them with an email seeking information about wheelchair space. It was also pointed out that prices and allocations are posted on the official website five weeks in advance of the game, and there is always the option of posting a cheque in advance of a fixture.
Jeff Bagnall raised the possibility of Wolves receiving smaller allocations for some cup away games as they were currently entering competitions earlier and playing at smaller grounds. Away season ticket holders are guaranteed tickets for League games only but Lynne assured him that the loyalty system would be in operation as a way of deciding priority.
Mark Griffiths was surprised that fans who wanted to buy bricks with names on couldn't do so and suggested the club considered the sort of idea whereby he had a commemorative stone at Wembley. Matt said: "There's no money in it for us because the cost is way in excess of what we receive but we have a remembrance book for those who have passed away and also have an annual fan remembrance service."
Tom Bason said he found the club's website difficult to use and Wolves World didn't seem to have as much on as usual. Matt replied: "We found out this season they are only doing two or three minutes highlights on there after fans could watch seven or eight minutes of footage last season. There's huge frustration with the website." Paul Lakin said Wolves were locked into a Football League Interactive (FLI) contract and had a new look to the site at the start of last season. "We're very disappointed," he said. "We're in a contract that has several seasons to go, so we need to continue to work them and they are making slow progress. All I can do is assure you we are having strong dialogue but it is effecting every FLi club and there’s about 75 of them." Clive Smith was also dissatisfied with it and Matt said there were sometimes issues with information uploaded by third parties.
Back to on-field matters, Andy James had noted that Wolves seem to have been kicking recently towards the South Bank in the second half of games and asked whether there had been a change of policy. Matt said: "When you’ve been through difficulty, everything is open to change, and I think the staff are just trying it to freshen things up. But I’ll ask the question."
Matt concluded the evening by announcing that the first meeting of the club's Youth Parliament had been held two weeks ago at the museum. He said three main topics had been discussed - improving the match-day experience, attracting more fans and the format of meetings. He also pointed out there may be a joint event between the two Parliaments at some stage.