As 2021 draws to a close it’s a good time to reflect on the year that has passed. Every year, my simple aim is to ensure that the Club finishes the year in a better position than it started it, both on the pitch and off it.
The purpose of Nicola and I coming to the Club was to try to put it on a sound and financially self-sustainable footing, and some of the longer term infrastructure projects are designed to achieve just that. The second full year of the pandemic has certainly made it a more challenging target than it would ordinarily have been, because for large periods we have been restricted in what activities we could do commercially, and but we have still moved forward in the last 12 months and there is much we can be proud of. In particular:
- We have installed a new 3G pitch at the training ground, which is generating revenue which can be used both to support both investments in the squad and also in further infrastructure improvements, and providing a much-needed new facility for the community to use;
- We have installed a new passenger lift in the main stand, to make the facilities we have more accessible to those with mobility issues;
- We opened the Beechwood recreation centre, including a state of the art gym, and have an extensive programme of activities planned there for 2022;
- We have bought new pitch lights to ensure that we have one of the best quality playing surfaces in the EFL;
- We have continued, through the combined efforts of the Club, TRIC, the Trust and many volunteers, to support the most vulnerable in our community, including by the ongoing provision of food parcels, mental health support and programmes to tackle social isolation, culminating in the recent Super White Christmas events;
- We have worked with the Trust to bring forward plans for the new Fan Park, an initiative which I believe will transform the matchday experience, as well as providing important new revenue streams for both the Club and Trust on non-matchdays; and
- We have made big strides in professionalising the talent identification, recruitment and football development processes, including the introduction of evidence-based training to ensure that every player is given the optimum platform to progress.
Financially, we have weathered the Covid storm reasonably well. Our income has certainly been negatively impacted for the second year in a row, but we have managed to navigate the turbulence of the pandemic without ever being late in paying wages, and without having to take any of the emergency support loans made available by the EFL or the government.
Of course, the most important thing to most of you is the performance on the pitch. Highlights of the year were another trip to Wembley in March (the 4th in as many years), this time for the Papa John’s Cup Final against Sunderland. In normal times, that would have been a magnificent occasion and I am sure both clubs would have sent a noisy following to the final, but of course, the pandemic once again made its presence felt and we had to play the match behind closed doors. On the day I felt we played the better football, but were very unlucky to lose by a single goal.
The end of last season saw us get through to the promotion play-offs but fall at that stage, without our talisman striker, James Vaughan, who was sidelined due to injury. It was undeniably a disappointment as we all hoped for an immediate return to League 1 after the injustices of the demotion the previous season, but a cup final and a promotion play off in a season decimated by Covid could have been a lot worse.
This season, we can head into the New Year with a sense of optimism; we are in the automatic promotion positions, albeit in a tight field, and well placed for the promotion that remains our key priority.
All that remains is for me to thank each and every one of you who has continued to support us throughout the last year. I hope we will be able to reward you by celebrating promotion in the new Fan Park in 2022. I wish a happy and healthy New Year to you all.
Tranmere Rovers Football Club