Words: Jamie Vermiglio; Picture: Stefan Willoughby
IT’S been over three months since the 2019/20 season was brought to an abrupt halt and the challenges everyone has faced since have no doubt made life extremely difficult.
The main aim of everyone at Chorley FC during these times is to ensure our families, communities and those around us are safe. We also have a responsibility to make decisions that will ensure the sustainability of Chorley Football Club going into 2020/21 and beyond.
The sudden end to our season was one we fully supported and the National League’s final decision to support the most successful sides on a points-per-game basis is a justified one. The decision to only relegate from tier one of non-league is one which, of course, will not feel fair to most followers of non-league football, particularly to those involved with teams extremely close to survival. However, a decision needed to be made. To those that have benefited, everyone at Chorley FC sends their congratulations and luck. To those who feel the decision is unjust I hope they use the experience as motivation for future success.
Over the last decade Chorley FC has turned nearly 20 years of decline and apathy into three promotions, six play-off campaigns, four Lancashire Challenge Trophy successes, three FA Cup first round appearances and countless memorable games watched by capacity crowds at Victory Park. As everyone knows, success is not linear; there are challenges, setbacks and upsets. This past season has been a huge learning curve for everyone associated with the Club. We worked extremely hard to compete in the National League and were more than deserving of our opportunity. Unfortunately we didn’t make the most of that opportunity. When we earn our chance again, we will be more prepared, both on and off the pitch.
I would like to share my gratitude to everyone at the Club, particularly the volunteers and supporters, who have continued to support us, given up their time and been positive during a season that brought many new challenges and reduced moments of success.
The group of players we’ve had at Victory Park over the last three years and more have been loyal and dedicated, with many contributing over 100 games to the cause. A majority of the recent squad shared a plethora of brilliant memories with us, not least the fantastic, against all odds, promotion to the National League last May. Some players, namely Andy Teague and Jake Cottrell, contributed to even more promotions! However, as we all know, changes occur in any line of work. Football is no different.
We have made a decision to review our on-field model and as a result a lot of players have moved on; some of their own accord, some for personal reasons, some to accept offers we cannot compete with and some because we made the tough decision to let them go.
The uncertainty of our league status has meant we’ve been unable to commit to any new players so far this summer. However, at the time of writing, we are delighted to have secured the services of Matty Urwin, Lewis Baines and Elliot Newby again. We remain in talks with other members of last season’s squad too and are hopeful of agreeing terms with at least one player. In addition, there have been many conversations and an unreserved determination to target and meet with many potential new players, staff and volunteers who, I’m sure, will help to give us a strong chance of promotion back to the National League. Further progress in this area will be made over the next few weeks.
The 2020-21 season will see more dedication to our youth system and the new Player Pathway. We are aiming to build on the first year of our Education Programme which offers 16 to 19-year-olds the opportunity to train and think like full time footballers. As a result, the first team model will change accordingly, with the profile of some players we’re aiming to recruit fitting into this model. The first team training schedule will also be changing to ensure when we do have the opportunity to compete in the National League again, we will be more prepared.
I am in such a privileged position and feel an immense sense of pride to be the manager of our Football Club. Without doubt the 2019/20 campaign will go down as a season where, ultimately, we failed, where I failed and where our team failed to take an opportunity in the National League. But that failure has done nothing to diminish my determination to ensure that we are successful. Just like you, I have ambitions for this club, and I will continue to work with a relentless persistence to ensure we continue to grow.
We’ve been promoted before; we WILL be promoted again!