The first fans’ forum of the 2019/20 season, much to the delight of John Kay I suspect, went off without a hitch at Deepdale last night. It’s funny how a team performing well on the field means a very relaxed Q & A session with the manager and some of the club’s hierarchy.

The first question of the night, somewhat unsurprisingly considering how recently it happened, was about Stoke City. Peter Ridsdale took the mic and said he received a call from Stoke on the Friday afternoon asking permission to speak with Alex Neil.

He essentially denied them permission to speak to the gaffer until the game against Charlton was out of the way and he had had a chance to speak with Alex himself and get his view on the whole situation.

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It was then on the Saturday whilst driving to the station to meet up with Alex and the squad to travel down to Charlton that he heard about the statement from TalkSport and he called Alex and “half-shouted at him”, Stoke City and “definitely shouted at them” and then the club put the statement out in the press. He then phoned Rick Parry, the newly appointed chair of the EFL and ‘put him on notice’ that the club intended to take things further.

Ultimately though, following a conversation with Alex on Saturday night at the team hotel and then putting the statement out on behalf of the manager, Ridsdale and the club felt there was no need to take things further.

The manager was staying and from my point of view, we don’t need something like that dragging on in the background whilst we are doing so well at the moment. It would be an unwanted distraction so I feel that the club made the right call in not escalating the matter.

There was then talk about the audit that we had carried out in the summer. Alex went into some detail about what he and Peter talk discuss when signing players and how the players now are more robust and used to the training methods amongst other things which, he thinks is why our injury record this season has improved.

There was a mention about how we don’t leave a player back when defending corners. Alex Neil put paid to it quite quickly though, to be honest. He spoke about the mix between zonal marking at corners versus man-marking and also spoke about the stats that the club have shown we are better served defending corners with everyone back.

TV games, obviously, were on the agenda. The Manchester City game we received about £130,000 from, despite not being on TV.

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The figures that the home and away club receive from TV games have now been rejigged somewhat too with both clubs receiving £75,000 each.

We have the 6 games coming up between now and Boxing Day which will result in 6 x £75,000 = £450,000. Not a bad amount to be coming into the club just before the window opens in January but one thing that the club doesn’t budget for is being in the top 2 for as long as we have.

As a result of this, the players are obviously getting their win bonuses paid out for their performances so whilst it’s great being where we are, the club are hoping to have some more games on TV in the new year should we continue to be up and around the top of the table in order to keep paying the player’s win bonuses. Fair do’s.

The inevitable eventually happened and that was the discussion of the training ground. In short, there has been no movement on the new training ground and the club don’t expect much to happen on that as it’s dependant on housing proposals getting through the planning authorities from one of two builders. John Kay finished his bit on the new training ground by saying he thinks it will be ‘some time’ before we see anything on that front.

However, the existing training ground will be the subject of planned improvements in the near future in an effort to “tide us over” until we are in a position to make a start on the new training ground. The final part of this ‘section’ if you will, was that there has also been no movement on the proposed fan zone.

The club are in discussions with the National Football Museum about getting back the usage rights to what used to be the museum itself in order to use it for the fan zone or something similar. Peter Ridsdale also said that should we find ourselves in the Premier League in the near future, there are plans to make that space a media suite and also to move the dressing room back over to the Sir Tom Finney stand side of the ground.

Ultimately though, considering the work that was put in by many supporters, it’s disappointing that things have stalled as much as they have with the training ground.

Peter Ridsdale went on to say that he has been given assurances by the owner that we are under no pressure whatsoever to sell any players that the manager wants to keep.

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He also added that the club hopes that the players themselves see this as an opportunity to take this football club to a place it hasn’t been since the early 60s. He certainly doesn’t envisage any of our key players leaving us in January and said that the club won’t be entertaining any offers for any of our key players.

To summarise the rest of the evening, there was talk of who were the better of the youngsters that have just signed new contracts, there was talk of Paul Gallagher coaching the U16s and also whether or not he will be staying involved with the club after he hangs up his boots.

The U23 squad that got a mention at the previous fans’ forum was brought up again and the situation was clarified. The idea was that there was supposed to be a number of north-west teams entering into a league of some kind but due to a lack of teams, they had to extend the perimeter of the league which would have potentially resulted in senior players travelling up to somewhere like Grimsby on a midweek to play a bounce game.

Half season tickets are doing okay so far. We have sold over 300 in the time that they have been on sale compared to previous seasons when we have only ever managed to hit around the high 60s mark.

Josh Harrop’s injury situation got a mention, the goalkeeping situation, Josh Earl’s development, potential incomings in January, something about Alex Neil’s house ‘needing a lick of paint’, David Nugent’s contract was also confirmed as 2 years, Ben Pearson’s bookings got brought up (again) and Alex Neil (rightly) said that he felt some of the people in attendance were clutching at straws with some of their questions as there was nothing to moan about.

He wasn’t wrong, to be honest, this forum was very quiet in comparison to the last one where there was apparently punches being thrown among fans. There were plenty of other things mentioned that, to be honest, weren’t of note. All in all though, an enjoyable night at the club.

Finally, a note for Ilene Booth, so often the star of these fans’ forums. Peter Ridsdale wished her all the best on behalf of the club and we here at From the Finney would just like to echo that and wish Ilene well in her recovery from illness.