WHEN? Friday 31st March at 10.30am
WHERE? Blues Bar, Deva Stadium, CH1 4LT
WHO? Nuffield Health, plus John Bithell’s Big Quiz Challenge
New members are welcome!
Chester FC Senior Blues is a group for older supporters who meet monthly and organise regular social activities.
Formed in 2013, largely through the efforts of the much missed Peter Mitchell and Chairman Chris Courtenay Williams, the Senior Blues meet on the first Friday morning of the month in the Blues Bar from August to May.
New members are very welcome with membership costing only £10 a year..
Meetings start at 10.30am and are well attended with generally between 50 and 70 members present. Tea, coffee and biscuits are served and there is a raffle and merchandise for sale
All monies raised is for the benefit of Chester FC, with the principal focus being the Academy, which has received approximately £20,000 to date.
New members are welcome and all money raised goes to the Senior Blues Youth Foundation.
Photos courtesy of Yasmin Thomas.
Senior Blues Members Meeting recap for March 2023, thanks to Les Smith for providing the update!
After opening the meeting, Chairman Chris handed the mic to Les to introduce guest speaker, football finance expert and Brighton fan Kieran Maguire, who was indeed present at the Deva in 2000 when we conceded seven goals to the Seagulls on our way to relegation to the Conference.
Kieran focused his talk on fan ownership and opened by saying it was workable in Scotland where Celtic and Rangers are the clear powerhouses and most other clubs accept this and just get along. In England there is a ceiling. He then went on to propose reasons why people buy football clubs. He cited profit and included the Glazers and Fenway Sports Group in this category as well as Jeremy Peace at West Brom. Some owners actually bought for love of the Club including lottery winner Colin Weir at Partick Thistle, Delia Smith at Norwich and Tony Bloom at his own Brighton. Amongst vanity projects he included Sheikh Mansour at Man City, Simon Jordan at Palace, Peter Swann at Scunthorpe and not least Roman Abramovich who lost £900K/week for 19 years in what was described as an insurance policy against Putin.
When Chelsea played Man City in the Champions League Final, the combined losses of the clubs were £1.6 billion, which led on to next category of owners, Insanity. Kieran contended that football also attracts “mad people”. Crawley Town are currently owned by WAGMI United LLC (We’re All Going To Make It), a group of US cryptocurrency owners and the first “internet” club where manager Matthew Etherington resigned after 34 days in charge and the co-chairman appeared in the dugout with a demonstrable lack of knowledge of the rules (nothing new there though is there?). Other “cases” were Cellino at Leeds who banned Sky cameras, Bassini at Watford who among other things was refused the keys to the Club safe (for personal use) by an employee after a Tuesday night fixture and subsequently banned for three years for financial misconduct and dishonesty. Steve Dale at Bury was also cited in this group.
Kieran also looked at the finances through the league pyramid and whilst not having details of the National League North, he showed the average loss in the National League in 2019 was £700K with only three clubs making a profit. Reasons given were poor cost control and the poor TV deal. Average annual losses in League One and Two currently run at £2.8M and £400K respectively. He described the Championship as a “Corporate Lottery Ticket” with a one in eight chance of winning. So much so that the average annual loss is £22M and only Rotherham United have made a profit over the last 5 years but have been relegated twice in the process. As a self confessed nerd, Kieran’s vast data base was even colour coded for each club’s financial performance when he felt the need to refer to spreadsheet data.
There was some discussion about players’ salaries throughout the leagues and salary caps, and specific instances were quoted of players wages and transfer dealings. One fascinating tale to avoid exceeding a salary cap (at Derby County) involved an incoming player’s mother being paid around £12K a week as an “academy scout” to cover the shortfall in his wages. “To avoid embarrassment to mum and player”, Kieran chose not to mention their names, but did point out who his (very famous footballing) father was.
When asked how to survive as a fan owned club, especially at a higher level, Kieran offered some suggestions as follows. Be smart: use the stadium as much as possible; if you have a 3G pitch monetise it; seek out all available grants; develop a Brand; don’t go over budget; develop a youth system although Premier League clubs offer poor compensation for taking players.
Although the talk could have gone on for much longer, Kieran’s good lady (the “Baroness”) and dog were waiting in the car park with the long trip to Brighton ahead. His insight, humour and forthrightness was well appreciated by the members and it is easy to see why he is the go to authority on Football finance on radio and TV.
Geoff announced the Senior Blues Goal Nets fundraiser to which the members responded magnificently with cash donations and pledges. Chris announced we would be voting for a Senior Blues Player of the Season at the next meeting. Margaret updated members on forthcoming trips and the sponsored game vs Peterborough Sports.
Senior Blues Members Meeting recap for February 2023, thanks to Les Smith for providing the update!
Chairman Chris was fit and able to return to duty and welcomed our first speaker of the day, CFU Board member Nick Phillipson.
Nick remembered his first visit to Sealand Road, Easter Monday, vs York City 1971 (and like most of us has carried on supporting regardless). He replaced Richard Lynes, being invited onto the Board at the start of the pandemic. Nick’s role covers facilities and catering and he referenced his work on replacing both the floodlights and catering companies. Despite a 30% saving with the new LED lights, bought with a 70% grant from the Football Stadium Improvement Fund, the bills are “horrendous” due to energy price increases.
He explained the catering set up with Olive Tree providing hospitality meals, Aaron running the bars and the Kiosk arrangements. As far as the stadium is concerned, after 32 years there is much to maintain. An arrangement with VINCI was beneficial for necessary resurfacing of the car park. Clearing the gutters via a cherry picker revealed ten balls on the stand roofs while the recent cold snap created 28 water leaks on the Harry Mac alone. There is always a need to be on the look out for grants to cover all eventualities.
Nick was followed by fellow Board member Ollie Hill who was elected in November. Brought up in Chester though now living in Liverpool and working as a Civil Servant, Ollie’s first game was a promotion winning match vs Scarborough through the persuasive power of Adam Langan. Before being elected, Ollie was involved with the Fundraising Committee and is currently working alongside Nick and looking to means of diversifying income with a view to increasing the budget.
There were a number of questions from the members concerning things such as missile throwing from the Harry Mac, the viability of the fan ownership model should we get promoted, and the Club Shop. These were discussed at length. Nick informed us that a “Board Away Day” was due to take place imminently where strategy planning was the main topic on the agenda.
Margaret informed the members about the forthcoming trips to the Gladstone Library and the Wroxeter Vineyard whilst Chris reported that the new boardroom chairs, donated by the Senior Blues, had been received.
The talk by the Blacon History Group was introduced by long-standing (Sealand Road Ender, now Harry Mac) supporter and Blacon resident Dave Cartwright. He described how, after a number of stops and starts, the group has gone from producing 1000 copies of a printed book to going digital, working with schools and producing a leaflet detailing four history walks around Blacon. During Covid the work was supplemented by the use of drones.
Dave was accompanied by Alan Smith, (Chair), and Norman Stainthorp, (Chief Historian) and between the three of them they gave us an illustrated talk on the history of Blacon Station and the line to Chester Northgate and New Brighton. Incredible as it may seem, the line was constructed by the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company as a route to the Mersey, having been denied access by LMS and GWR to use their lines. Blacon Station was built in 1890 at the behest of local landowner, Lord Crewe, despite the fact that there were very few houses at the time, (the oldest house in Blacon being built circa 1843).
The Beeching Report and the growth of car ownnership in the mid to late 1960’s had a disastrous effect on passenger numbers and the service finally closed in 1968. Gone were the days when it was the preferred mode of transport into Chester. Chester Northgate Station was demolished to build the Northgate Arena and Blacon Station fell into disrepair, to be demolished in 1986.
However a single track remained which was used to transport steel coils to John Summers until the early 90’s. In the early 2000’s after a consultation process it was converted to the current cycleway. On reflection, Dave admitted that perhaps (his) opposition to a proposed tramway may have been misplaced given the changes in environmental thinking and sustainability.
The talk was supplemented by illustrations of Blacon station and the railway line, with eagle eyed rail enthusiasts able to identify specific locomotive classes. In addition, recent photos taken on the cycleway were useful pointers to long-lost features along the line. All in all, an excellent and interesting talk complete with a working model railway mock up of Blacon Station. And if anyone ever wondered what happened to the old Highfield pub sign, Norman rescued it from a skip after it had been knocked down.
Chris thanked all the speakers for their well received presentations and closed the meeting.
Boardroom upgrade courtesy of Senior Blues!
The Senior Blues recently kindly offered to purchase twelve new Boardroom chairs to replace the current ones which have been in use for many years.
The Boardroom now has a much-improved look, not only for the regular internal meetings, but also for visiting Directors and other external guests.
Here is a photo of Chris Courtenay-Williams and members of the Senior Blues Committee with Chester FC’s Director of Facilities, Nick Phillipson.
The Board of Directors and Chester Football Club really appreciate this generous donation, and would like to thank the Senior Blues for their continued support.
Senior Blues Members Meeting recap for January 2023, thanks to Les Smith for providing the update!
In the enforced absence of Chairman Chris (due to illness) and his trusty gavel, Geoff Leith and Les Smith tried their best to lead the meeting.
The first guest, John Thomas, who scored 20 goals in 44 appearances for Chester in the 1982-83 season (according to his Wikipedia page), proved to have an encyclopedic knowledge of his career in far greater detail than the aforesaid on-line source. He started from his time as a pub footballer in Wednesbury to signing for Everton at the age of 16 where he spent 6 seasons without making a single first team appearance.
He later noted that it was far better to be on the same side as Roger Kenyon than playing against him (which he never did). He had a remarkable recall of all his contract negotiations and signing-on fees throughout his career, spent largely playing for north west clubs with two spells at Bolton and Preston as well as his season at Chester. He recalled time at Lincoln and at West Brom (a “dream” move to his local boyhood team) that both worked out less well for various reasons.
John spoke for well over an hour on his career, on setting up home in the north west and on his current business activities. Some points from his talk worth reporting in these notes are … He was signed on a 2 yr contract at Chester after his first spell at Bolton, by Cliff Sear and though player of the year was sold to Lincoln for a reported £22,000 after a single season. Wikipedia chose to describe Chester as “cash strapped” and John admitted it was a mistake to leave. In his last game for Lincoln he experienced the horrors of the Bradford City fire from on the pitch.
At Preston, he played alongside Gary Brazil, who he rated as perhaps the best he had played with, where he again won a player of the year award. He also made particular mention of Brian Kidd’s role as assistant manager. He experienced the first plastic pitch at Deepdale in his second season when they won promotion to Div 3. In his second spell at Bolton he was again in a Div 4 promotion winning side and played at Wembley the following season winning the Football League Trophy.
John was clearly a very successful striker in Divisions 3 & 4 scoring 119 goals in 330 appearances over a 12 year period (my calculation) until the result of a broken leg in his second spell at Preston took its toll. John’s talk was much appreciated by the members and after the meeting he drove to Chairman Chris’ home to catch up on a long-standing friendship.
The draw for the attendees at the Senior Blues sponsored fixture with Peterborough Sports was then made before Mike Allcock, this time wearing his first team coach’s hat, arrived after training and addressed the audience.
Once again Mike was open, honest and clear about his dual role at the Club. He gave us some insights into training drills, performance monitoring and the truth behind some corner routines (successful or otherwise). He was able to provide updates on the injury situation in the long and short term.
After taking a number of questions from the members it was clear that we had run into added time and after thanking Mike the meeting was closed.
Senior Blues Members Meeting recap for December 2022, thanks to Les Smith for providing the update!
Chris Courtenay Williams opened another well attended meeting by introducing Chester Women’s Manager Martin Fitzimons and team member Molly Wood who has been a regular for the past two years. Martin was pleased that attendances were now growing in what has been a very stop start season in terms of results, having, for example, lost the last five games. Though awareness in the Chester Women’s side is increasing via Podcasts and Twitter, there is a definite downside of Social Media platforms which players and volunteers do not need.
Since the England team’s success in the Euros there has been an upsurge in interest and competition but Martin was optimistic about an improved performance in the league. He recognised the sponsorship provided by the Senior Blues. Chairman Chris then fulfilled one of his most enjoyable duties by asking Molly a series of none too taxing questions about her time at Chester and about football in general which she answered with good grace and charm.
Club Historian, Chas Sumner then gave an in-depth illustrated talk on the history of Sealand Road. Starting with the formation of the Club in 1885, through the grounds in Hoole and Whipcord Lane, and finally to Sealand Road ground in 1906. After the first world war, the Club were founder members of the Cheshire County League before election into the Football League in 1931. Some notable innovations over the years were the tannoy system built in the early 1930’s and ”decent” floodlights (1960), the latter largely funded by the Supporters Association. Many photographs were shown which illustrated the development of the Sealand Road stands, the pitchside wall and cinder track, and the Kop. The ground record was over 20,000 (vs Chelsea, FA Cup replay 1951-52) was on a January afternoon well before the days of floodlights. The new main stand was built in 1979/80 at a cost of around £0.5M, double the original estimate. An annex to the stadium was sold in 1973 for £290K which help fund promotion. To close the talk Chas showed numerous nostalgic shots of the last days of the ground after it had been closed for good.
This short report does not do justice to the time and effort Chas has put in over the years to build up his archive and knowledge, and his talk was well appreciated by the members.
The meeting was then joined by the management team to a well deserved round of applause. After a relatively short annual address from Calum, everyone adjourned to the Legends Lounge for what turned out to be an excellent Christmas Lunch and an equally excellent “after lunch” speech by special guest Jeannie France-Hayhurst, the High Sheriff of Cheshire.
Senior Blues Members Meeting recap for November 2022, thanks to Les Smith for providing the update!
Chairman Chris Courtenay Williams opened another very well attended meeting by rattling through the AGM and reflecting on our first year since Covid. He paid tribute to those members who had died in the past year with a special mention for Vic Croft our treasurer for the past 11 years and thanked Martin Williams for taking over. Remarkably we had over 50 members for our first meeting after the enforced break and have maintained high attendances ever since. We have had trips to the Liver Buildings, the KGV Hub and The Hidden Garden at Menai. We continue to support the Youth Academy (noting we will be sponsoring their FA Youth Cup tie vs Bradford City) and also now are sponsoring the Chester FC Women’s Team. It was proposed from the floor that the existing committee be retained and agreed by the members present. Job done. Apparently!
Chris also drew the members attention to the poor condition of the chairs in the Boardroom (as discussed at a recent committee meeting). The members agreed by a show of hands that the Senior Blues would provide funds for a replacement set of chairs.
The draw was the carried out to determine the eight members to win places in the Hospitality Package for the Alfreton game on 10th December sponsored by the Senior Blues. The winners were Joan Salt, Dave Pearson, Peter Featherston, Peter Alexander, Sue Pearson, Keith Musson, David Cobden, Bernard Clarke.
Reserve list: Frank Salt, Ann Rutter.(who will go forward to the next Senior Blues sponsored game vs Peterborough Sports). Congratulations to all the winners!
The first Guest speaker was Kate Mylchreest (CFU Board member and Director of Development at Storyhouse). Kate was born in Nottingham, moved to Chester at the age of 2 and grew up here before attending Newcastle University. She then worked in London before moving back to Chester 15 years ago. She has been head of fundraising at the Countess of Chester hospital and also at the newly completed Royal University hospital in Liverpool before moving to work at Storyhouse, a £37 million not for profit facility which opened in 2017.
As well as the theatre, cinema and library facilities there is a Community programme with 128 different groups. Kate manages all fundraising (over £6million to date), stakeholder management and statutory funding. CFU Board member and City Councillor Adam Langan was instrumental in co-opting her on to the CFU Board where her main portfolio is to help sponsorship along with the commercial work of Georgina and Albert. She was glad to see more diversity in what she considered to be a dynamic Board. Responding to a question she said there is a continuing effort to improve awareness of the Club in the city which has been helped by the opening of the KGV. She hopes to grow the profile of the Club and link it to the wider community more. She also referred to the recently produced film “Gate Money, Inside football’s non-league funding fiasco” due to have a special screening at Storyhouse on Nov 20th and which includes a contribution relating to Chester FC from Jim Green. Chris thanked Kate for her efforts which were warmly appreciated by the members.
Our second guest, sports broadcaster and Cestrian Jonathan Legard entertained us with a plethora of stories starting from his early days following Chester, through his transformation from teaching to radio broadcasting, life at the BBC and currently freelance multisport experiences. It is fair to say that the brevity of this report doesn’t do justice to his tour de force. However we learned that he watched his first game and got hooked on Chester City in the 71-72 season. When teaching in Hong Kong many years later, the experience of doing a voice over changed his career path forever.
Around 1985 he returned to Chester and worked as a volunteer at the Countess hospital radio and started reporting on the Blues, with Harry McNally being particularly helpful and encouraging. Without any formal training in journalism, the next move was to cover football on Radio Merseyside where there was a supportive Charlie Lambert. After five years on local radio which included reporting on Hillsborough, Jonathan moved to the BBC in London where he covered Formula 1 and learned from the master that was Murray Walker. With tales of the circuit high life, Michael Schumacher, Jackie Stewart (and Phil Collins!) it was clear that the letters B B and C could get you anywhere. A spell covering football followed, with tales of interviewing Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, the England team hotel at the 2006 World Cup, Sven, and the much admired Terry Butcher. Following that, there was even more flexibility with the Boat Race and its interruption by a lone swimmer, the London Olympics and a first venture into Volleyball. The sports portfolio increased and as a freelance journalist, remote coverage of the Tokyo Olympics from Dockside studios during Covid had its own particular challenges.
Many more unlikely stories involving colleagues’ experiences with Elizabeth Taylor, John Lennon and the like followed, along with a lively Q&A. Above all, we learned Jonathan is as passionate about broadcasting and about Chester FC as he ever was, despite his exile in London for 32 years. The Graham Barrow years (as player and manager) were definitely favourites. He was particularly forthright about the Gloucester City tactics last month, a game he managed to attend at the Deva. Sadly the meeting had run into extra time with Jonathan still demonstrating an unflagging ability as a raconteur. His next job, the following day, was at Murrayfield and he had to get back to London first. With guys like him commentating, don’t expect much dead air time even when there is little action on the pitch, court, track, water etc. He even assured me that he writes his own scripts for his voice-overs on the EFL highlights show. Thanks Jonathan, you are always welcome.
Senior Blues Members Meeting recap for October 2022, thanks to Les Smith for providing the update!
The Guest Speaker at a very well attended meeting was Chris Matheson, who at the time was MP for Chester. He spoke about a number of football finance and governance related topics and took questions on a wide range of subjects including transgender participation in sport, the Qatar World Cup, immigration, the cross-border problems with the Deva Stadium, and empty shops in the City centre.
Chairman Chris thanked speaker Chris and after the raffle, and announcements about the November AGM and the Christmas dinner, members arranged themselves into 13 roughly (numerically) equal teams for John Bithell’s Senior Blues Quiz Challenge which comprised 30 questions, skilfully tailored towards those of advancing years, and covering sport, music, films, and other odds and sods from days gone by. There were even questions on the minutiae of Chester FC, surely only known to the anoraks among us. Having said that, the team led by Treasurer Martin Williams (because he had a pen) and which contained 4 other committee members, romped home with a magnificent 29/36 and despite demands for a stewards enquiry were declared the winners. For any other pedant reading this who is having trouble with the maths, there were 6 two-part questions. Thanks John. Next Quiz, March 2023.
Senior Blues Members Meeting recap for 2nd September 2022, thanks to Les Smith for providing the update!
Guest speakers were skipper, George Glendon; Communications Manager and Football Administrator, Albert Davies; Academy Manager and First Team Coach, Mike Allcock.
Chris Courtenay Williams introduced George who talked about his football career including the high spot of being on the bench for Manchester City in European games; the despondency of being left without a club after Bury folded, and being effectively rescued through Bern and Jonno making contact with his dad, who had managed at Radcliffe Borough for over 20yrs. He spoke about his love for Chester and his frustrations at not getting promoted after two Covid interrupted seasons, last season’s poor results and his current ACL injury which will keep him out for most of this season. He answered lots of questions including his opinion on refs, his partnership with Dec Weeks, the current squad, his buying into the Chester model, morning training and the KGV, and footballers’ wages. He had praise for the coaching staff and said his ambition is to get promoted with Chester.
Albert described his new dual role at the Club after starting several years ago on a volunteer basis and dealing mostly with media aspects. Commercial aspects are carried out in conjunction with Georgina (Slawinski) and football business with Calum and Jim (Green). There is a plan to utilise students to assist at the club as part of their educational programme. As well as day to day communications, Albert is responsible for the Club website (which he would very much like to see improved) and the Seals Podcast. In his role as an interviewer Albert was primed to probe our self-effacing Chairman Chris about his football career. It turned out Chris was a childhood friend of Ron Davies, and there his 11-a-side football career ended. Although he played 5-a-side till the age of 75 (and don’t we know it!), he actually uttered the words “I wasn’t good enough for 11-a-side”. Thanks Albert for prising out that gem of information. Thanks Chris for being a good sport.
Mike Allcock told us about his background in teaching, sports journalism and coaching, and some valuable and happy years spent at Hyde United. Contact with Calum led him to Chester as his Academy assistant and also as first team coach in Calum’s management team at Runcorn Linnets. He spoke of a 24 month plan to progress 5-6 youth team players to the 1st team squad. The philosophy of his dual role at Chester is player development in the Academy on Wednesdays (in the National League Alliance) and Sundays (in the North West Youth Alliance), whilst as first team coach the focus is clearly on winning matches. Mike also talked about the 2yr Btec in Sport programme offered to our Scholars, with 24 players in the 17/18yr age group. There is a desire to recruit for the full time programme principally from the current U16 age group which is filled with local talent. This can be supplemented with players released from EFL clubs.
The Members agreed to the Senior Blues’ Sponsorship of our home fixture vs Alfreton Town on 10th December. More details later.
Geoff Leith outlined the arrangements for the Christmas meal which will be held after our meeting on Dec 2nd. Payment was requested at the October meeting.
Senior Blues visit to KGV Sports Hub
Around 40 members of the Senior Blues visited the Hub on Friday 26th August during a First team training session.
The visionary that is Jim Green described the project from conception to completion. The 3G pitch is almost fully booked for both Chester FC and Community use, with Sundays being taken up by Chester FC Women and Academy fixtures. In addition, Jim updated us on the redevelopment of the original KGV changing rooms adjacent to the grass pitches, which will also be used as the teaching headquarters for the Scholars programme. Work is also underway in improvement of the pitches which will further extend the use of the KGV.
After a short Q&A, members were given free reign of the facility though no one, not even Chairman Chris, joined the training session. It is impossible not to be impressed by the KGV and certainly, along with the Deva Stadium, must be a major attraction for potential signings. An additional beneficiary is the Deva Stadium pitch (and Mike Barrow) which is now free from the wear and tear of training sessions. Credit should be given to all those involved in its development. It is a tremendous facility that will benefit Chester FC and the City of Chester for many years to come.
Members Meeting Recap: August 5th
Almost 70 members attended the first Senior Blues Meeting of the 2022-23 Season.
Guest speakers were CFU Chairman Kieron Shiel who updated us on the progress made over the summer, including the recruitment of Calum McIntyre as First Team Manager; Georgina Slawinski who explained her role as General Manager and distributed copies of the Chester FC Commercial Brochure. She was followed by Matty Waters who thanked supporters for the financial assistance for his ACL operation through the Chester Former Players Association Just Giving Crowd Funding Appeal.
Matty is being helped in his rehabilitation by the Club and is targeting March 2023 as a return date. Grenville Millington, representing the FPA, asked those present to give generously if they hadn’t already and then proceeded do a brilliant time-filling stand-up routine of stories from between the posts whilst waiting for Calum and Colin Woodthorpe to arrive from training. Colin needed slightly more persuasion to speak than Calum (and Grenville!) but unsurprisingly both received the members full attention and support for the coming season.
On a sad note, after the meeting a number of members attended the funeral of Senior Blues Treasurer Vic Croft. Vic was encouraged onto the Committee by his good friend and true Blue, Peter Mitchell who passed away in May 2021. Vic will also be sadly missed.
Plas Cadnant – the Hidden Gardens
On Friday 19th August, a 53 seater coach carrying passengers with a combined age probably somewhere in excess of 3600 years set off from the Deva Stadium at 9.30 for Menai Bridge. The owner of Plas Cadnant was most welcoming, the gardens were spectacular, the food in the cafe was superb and the coach driver was particularly skilful in negotiating the steeply descending single track road into the valley. The weather was perfect and a good day was had by all (I think!)
Thanks to Les Smith for providing an update!