Fleetwood Town CEO reflects on a season of ups and downs at Highbury
Fleetwood Town CEO Steve Curwood admits that while he’s glad to see the back of the 2020/21 campaign, he has been pleased by some elements of the season.
After finishing in the League One play-off places the season before, it was a disappointing campaign on the whole for Town.
It was a season that saw Joey Barton depart as head coach at the start of the year, replaced by Simon Grayson at the end of January.
In the first of a series of pieces with the Cod Army’s CEO, Curwood told The Gazette his thoughts on the season – including the ‘soulless’ nature of it as he attended all games without supporters being present.
He said: “I’m probably glad to see the back of the season for a number of reasons.
“It’s been soulless without the fans in the stadium and all of the buzz that goes on, on a matchday – being part of that.
“While it’s a privilege that you can watch 46 league games, which I’ve been to, it just doesn’t have that feeling or connection to the sport that you’re involved in.
“From that point of view, I’m really glad we seem to be heading in the right direction of getting fans back in the stadium.
“On that basis, we’re glad to see the season end. Not just because of that, we started off with our intentions and we felt that we could reach the play-offs again.
“We started with a downward momentum towards Christmas time and we decided we wanted to change the manager at that point.
“After that, it was a case of making sure we preserved our status in League One.
“The football club as a whole repositioned quite a lot of things because of the pandemic and we’re quite happy that we have a football club in League One for next season.
“On the basis of the overall season, we were happy to see it end.”
On the field there was disappointment in the club’s final league position of 15th, but it was a season where the playing staff underwent an overhaul.
As time went on, big names and high earners were moved on with the summer in mind.
Club captain Paul Coutts was one of the departures, while star strikers Paddy Madden and Ched Evans also left over the course of the campaign.
In their place, younger players who have come through the ranks at Highbury have been given an opportunity to impress over the second half of the season.
Grayson has afforded chances to a number of academy graduates, reiterating the club’s intention to highlight more of their homegrown players.
For Curwood, this represents another vital part of the process in the club’s continuing progression.
He said: “There are some real bright sparks to it (the season).
“The biggest one is the emergence of the younger talent and the work that has gone on for many years.
“With the academy and the people behind that, and the emergence of that talent, it’s been a real bright spark and there are a number of players playing their way into first team positions.
“James Hill is one of the biggest one of those, a 19-year-old centre-half coming through after a number of years in the academy.
“There are a number more besides who have got themselves in the first team.
“For the first time, we’re starting to get interest from bigger clubs with offers out there for our players.
“That’s where we want to be, we want to be a club that can develop talent.
“That’s the club we feel we ought to be. Not wholly, but a big part of who we are should be to utilise the fantastic facilities we have at Poolfoot and start to creep these players into the first team.
“In the background, the U18s are a fabulous group and they won their league – and had a good FA Youth Cup run, getting the furthest they’d ever been.
“There’s a real bright future in our academy which really excites me and the owner, Andy Pilley.
“As we move into next year, I think we’ll probably see seven or eight academy graduates in the first team 22.”
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