Friday 17 January 2014

Neil Young gone - time to take stock

It’s over a week ago now but the shock still remains. Exiles chair Pauline Meakins reflects on Neil Young's time at Chester and where his departure leaves the club.

It is easy to speculate about how, what, why it all happened but none of us really know the true facts. All I can base my emotions are the three absolutely fantastic seasons we had under Sir Neil Young. Happiness at supporting my team that I never thought I would ever experience again.

Reflecting on what went wrong it still doesn’t add up. Even though the season started badly, and probably worse than we feared, the two excellent home games over the Christmas period made me believe we were starting to turn the corner and I was looking forward to the (familiar) scrap to the end of the season with much more optimism.

Last July, Neil Young accepted an invitation to come and speak to the Exiles and over thirty members turned up at the Parcel Yard pub at Kings Cross station. If anyone was in any doubt about his loyalty and commitment to the club before that meeting, we all left absolutely adoring the man, his passion and his vision for the future. He wanted to succeed and he knew how he could do it. He knew this season was going to be tough and so did we but we were all eager to travel this journey together. Finishing fifth from bottom was all we hoped for.

Our club’s, or rather Neil’s downfall, was probably getting promoted too quickly. Maybe two seasons in each of those leagues would have helped us build a more solid financial foundation and a healthier budget. Did he reach his level as some have suggested? What he reached was the level of magic he could work with the money and resources at his disposal.

We have to face facts now. We can’t just expect the Board to wave a magic wand. As fans we are equally responsible. If we want to keep a good manager, we are going to have to find more ways of funding him and the team he wants to build. I feel guilty as in recent seasons, my working life has not allowed me the time to get as involved as I would like or as others have.

However, the Board needs to meet us half way too and be more open and honest to the fans about what does need to be done and what can be realistically achieved. Aren’t we the shareholders after all? The mountain of things that have to be done must be daunting but maybe some of these tasks could be broken down into bite size jobs that could be openly shared by appropriately skilled fans to leave those with greater business experience to plan for the future.

We also need a figurehead that fans know they can get hold of when they call the club to answer their questions and who is authoritative enough to make decisions. We don‘t want to bother Tony Durkin with day to day matters but we want to bother someone else.

I didn't want our relationship with Neil Young to end in tears but it has and it makes me sad. But as we look for our ‘new’ Neil Young let's not throw bricks at those who have the club’s future in their hands as they will be hurting too.

This was written as a tribute to Neil Young, the closest any manager has got to the hearts of Chester fans since the late, great Harry McNally. No finer compliment could be paid to someone who arrived when we had nothing but left us with so many fantastic memories.

Neil Young - we thank you.

Pauline Meakins, Chair Chester Exiles
17 January 2014