STEVE BARKER SO AMBITIOUS + RADFORD NOTES
Barker is so ambitious for Stags but knows patience could be vital
Evening Post, 8 Oct 2010
THE last thing Steve Barker could have expected as he drove through the Field Mill gates to officially start his new role as Mansfield Town's chief executive yesterday was to be contemplating a 5-2 home defeat.
Hours earlier, he had been sat in the directors' box, probably a little disbelieving, as the Stags were taken apart by AFC Wimbledon.
Barker is sure to have been well versed on the recent history of the club; the heartache struggles, torment and frustration.
But the devastation he witnessed at the hands of the Dons must have merely underlined the size of the task he faces in attempting to deliver new owner John Radford's ambitious vision.
The Stags' new benefactor and chairman has made no secret of the fact he wants to emulate his good friend John Ryan of Doncaster Rovers in taking the club into the Championship.
He insists Mansfield will now be able to compete with Crawley and Luton for the best players and clearly wants to see Mansfield challenging for a play-off spot come next April.
Barker, though, knows that success is not always immediate. Patience, he believes, may be required.
"If you are looking at it from a fan's point of view with the good start the team has made and with John coming in, then you could say not getting in the play-offs would be a failure," said Barker.
"But the fact is you have to set your stall out to get things right in the long-term.
"To get back in the league at the first attempt under John would be tremendous, of course, but you have to be realistic.
"Crawley are spending a lot of money and there are other clubs fighting hard too. Look at Wimbledon – it was not long since they were in the League.
"This league is getting better and better and it's harder than when John (Ryan) was here and throwing money at it does not mean you are going to be successful.
"This is a long-term thing and David (Holdsworth) is under no pressure. We look on him as the best in the league and someone who can take it on in Leagues Two and One as well. We feel we are very lucky to have him."
Barker is aware that expectation levels have rocketed on the back of multi-millionaire Radford's purchase of the club for £1.
But he feels it would be irresponsible and rash for a host of new signings to be made, rather than changing personnel gradually over time.
Barker said: "You are always going to get big expectations when you have a rich chairman taking over.
"The fans want to see new players and big players coming in. But we have got to be sensible about how we do it and David (Holdsworth) shares that view.
"You don't want to upset what is a very good team by bringing in players who aren't going to fit into the team ethic. Big egos can cause problems.
"We know the team can always be improved, but it is not just a case of heaping money into it and the players not working as a unit. It's a fine line, a balancing act.
"Adam Murray was impressive at Gateshead and slotted in very well – and those are the type of player we want.
"Any players who do come in will be entirely down to David's choice. We will not interfere in that side of things.
"There may be changes in January. David has got money to spend and it's down to him to manage that.
"At that point, we will sit down and go through what he feels we need to strengthen the squad."
Radford's off-the-field plans – to be overseen by Barker – include buying Field Mill from previous owner Keith Haslam and redeveloping the Bishop Street stand.
If that's not possible, he would look to build a new stadium elsewhere.
A host of other projects are also in the pipeline, including relocating home fans to the North Stand, incentives to improve gates and seeking to improve the club's commercial activity.
"I'm very excited about what John has got planned," said Barker. "We have to go through with all the staff to see where we are going and how things are run.
"I can't say how long that will take, but I think the club is in a very good position.
"We have sat down with David to get an overview of where we are with the team and how things can be improved.
"We have got a very strong team and a very professional manager. The previous directors have done a very good job and there is a good team behind that.
"I don't think we could have come in at a better time and we have to look at all things, including the commercial side.
"The reserves and youth structure, too, are things that we will look at and reassess."
Barker has just worked his notice in quality and environmental systems management.
He has been a good friend of Radford's for some time but this is the first time he has been in his employment.
Barker said: "I have known John for over 20 years now. He was initially a friend of my wife and we've always been friends since.
"I've always been involved in sport with him – we used to play football and squash together. I think the relationship we have will help.
"My background has always been in management and I hope that will be of benefit in my time at the club.
"We are both Stags fans and want to see the club move forward. I'm honest and so is John and we both have the club's interests at heart and want to look after the money going in."
Born in Pleasley, Barker still lives there and has always had a keen interest in Mansfield's fortunes.
"In past years, I've only been a couple of times a season, which I'm not very proud of," he said.
"But previous to that, I used to come to virtually every home game when I was younger, watching the team from the Bishop Street Stand in front of big crowds.
"I would have to have been crazy to turn this job down. I'm so excited and it feels like I've won the lottery to be involved."
THE BIG INTERVIEW
from matchday programme vs AFC Wimbledon
JOHN RADFORD OUTLINES STAGS' VISION
New Chairman John Radford answers questions sent in by fans via our official website http://www.mansfieldtown.net
Firstly, may I say thank you to you for securing the future of the club we all love. You have done what any true fan with the resources available would have wanted to do to keep our great club alive!
I work part time in a local secondary school. The other day I was in a lesson with students aged 11 to 12. To fill in time, we were having a competition asking general questions to the class.
I asked them which local football club had just been sold for £1. The kids had no idea! I asked them to name a local club......... they couldn't.
One lad put his hand up. I thought great..... at last!
He shouted..... "I know... Liverpool!"
I am shocked that these children who are potentially all future supporters of Mansfield Town are not even aware of our existence!
These are the fans and supporters of the future, our life blood and the fan base for our future existence.
These kids should all be talking about the last game, the next game, the goals, the players.
They should be exited about the club, the next game and be proud to support us.
What are you proposing to do to raise the profile of the club, encourage old and new supporters to the club and promote Mansfield Town to local kids, who don't even know or care that Mansfield have a football club?
Phil Selfe, Brinsley
We have to look at the initiatives previously tried such as the 'pay what you want' scheme last season versus Gateshead, where most people came and only paid a penny. Unfortunately, despite it being a great idea, the campaign didn't appear to be successful. I will look to put promotions in future editions of the programme such as 'collect two tokens from the programme and get a free ticket'. This will encourage programme sales and will hopefully bring more people through the gates. It is tricky, however, as we don't want to reach a situation where we have a 2,000 attendance, of which only 1,000 are paying. I do need to look at this in greater detail, however.
Further to that, we certainly need to continue our player visits to local schools and hand out tickets to local children to encourage them to come to more matches. We would certainly encourage more newcomers and I can only echo the fact that children aged under seven are allowed into the stadium for free, when accompanied by a paying adult.
Firstly I would like to thank you for coming to the rescue of our dear club; I like many others feared for our survival after hearing of the difficulties the previous owners were suffering so it was to some relief great news that Mr Radford had come to our rescue. The club clearly needs crowds of 3,000 plus to be financially viable. The team are winning and playing good football so what more can be done to attract a further 1000 supporters to games on a regular basis?
John Hardwick, Nottingham
We have to start promoting ourselves within local football leagues and begin to put our hands in our pockets by donating kits to young children. We would look to do this type of thing for all schools in Mansfield. We also need to review the pricing structure and this is also near the top of my priority list.
How do you intend to manage the conflicting aims of all club chairmen in wishing to take the club as far up the footballing pyramid as you can whilst also building a self-financing club not reliant on handouts from yourself?
Mark Fretwell, Sutton-in-Ashfield
I would love the club to be running on a self-financial basis. The club needs attendances of at least 3,000 to be self-financing and the ways to make the Stags self sustainable is something which is at the top of my agenda.
Mr Radford spoke in the website interview of looking at the gate pricing structure. Please could he revert to the concession price being restored to last season's price and also the age reduced to over 60 not 65 as applied this year. This would be easier to monitor as all you would need to prove your age would be your bus pass which also has photo I.D this would stop any fraudulent entry into the ground, I am sure this would increase the gate significantly as I am aware this season's price structure has prevented many retired pensioners from attending.
Robert Reynolds, Mansfield Woodhouse
We will certainly look at this, along with the whole pricing structure to allow the club to be self-financing.
I know you are the main sponsor of Doncaster Rovers, so why Mansfield Town? What makes you pick a club like us to own and become a part of?.
Sean Hart, Warsop.
I was born and bred in Mansfield, along with my family. I have only been in Doncaster for the past 15 years and have always followed the Stags' fortunes. It was easier for me to get to Rovers' games as I married a girl from Doncaster and my company is based there. My heart, however, has always been with Mansfield.
Congratulations with the purchase of the club from Andy Saunders, Steve Hymas and Steve Middleton. Without these three guys we wouldn't have had a club to follow each week and I think all the fans of the club are delighted that they will continue in an Non Executive role. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
Do you intend to pursue the possibility of purchasing Field Mill from Mr Haslam in order that the club can own the ground again, as opposed to being tenants?
I consider this important because, certainly at the lower levels, the ground is by far the largest asset that most clubs have. It also provides a greater sense of security for the fans and everyone else involved in the club. Additionally, it would also put behind us the 'Haslam era' which, for various reasons, is viewed with distaste by many Stags supporters.
Chris Ross, Sutton Coldfield (A similar question was asked by Robert Reynolds and Chris Vasper)
Yes, I intend to purchase Field Mill. To get the ground back into the club's name is certainly something high on my priority list. Either that, or we would look to find new premises. The Mayor is helping with the negotiations with Mr Haslam at this current stage so we will see what happens over the forthcoming months. At the moment, however, I can't really say too much more, but I will certainly look to get Field Mill back into our hands.
I really have only one question, having been a loyal Stag for 47 years and watched so many highs and lows, the team will always be Mansfield Town and forever supported by my son and I, whichever league they are in.
My question is three fold. If you buy the ground back, would you develop the Bishop Street and most importantly, give us all our pride back?
People say that we must have a football club in the town, and I wholeheartedly concur, however, the identity and heritage of the club was born on Quarry Lane, Field Mill.
I hope that you will buy the ground back and re-develop the Bishop Street side of the ground, and look upon it as reinstating a whole town's memories.
Disassociate yourself from Haslam, and I guarantee a 30% increase in through the gate support. We are not over zealous, grudge bearing fanatics Mr Radford, neither do we suffer fools gladly.
May I thank you and wish you every success at the home of my Gods
Colin Knight, The East Coast Stag
There are a few issues regarding planning but in answer to the question, yes, I would look to develop Bishop Street.
You spoke in your first interview about spending money on Field Mill with regards doing work on the stands. What work are you planning to do?
Kevin Marshall, Mansfield
Once, or if, we manage to get the stadium back into the club's name then the development of Bishop Street will be one of the first priorities as far as spending money on the stands is concerned. There is work needed with regards to toilet facilities and the changing rooms, however, I don't want to spend too much money on the stands until we know the position with owning the ground.
The supporters' trust, Stags Fans United, also has a non executive director on the board, Colin Dobell, who the previous owners were able to turn to for advice and assistance especially during the last few months of their ownership. Given the Trust have a sizable shareholding of Community Shares is it your intention to work closely not only with SFU, but also the other supporters groups connected to Mansfield Town?
Chris Vasper, Mansfield
Yes, I will work closely with all supporters groups and encourage them to come to board meetings and suchlike. I look to continue the transparency of which the previous three owners operated.
What do you see being for the first thing that Mansfield Town are going to need to be able to get back into Football League Two apart from getting promoted?
Anthony May, Sheffield
Our lease on the ground with Mr Haslam [the current landlord] is something which needs to be addressed. We need a lease of ten years in order to attain promotion. I need to resolve this before March of next year, so this is a small hurdle which we need to get over. Other than that, we need stability both in our team and in our finances.
This season we have had to scrap the centre of excellence and youth & reserve teams- is this something you want to reinstate?
Aaron Eccleston, Chipping Campden, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. (A similar question were sent by Deryke Banner of Forest Town)
It is something that Steve Barker, the new chief executive, will be looking at. We will need to know why it was scrapped, firstly. I don't think the cost of its running was too high and so we are looking to re-instate it. A decision on this could be reached by Christmas.
John, is there any chance of the home fans getting the North Stand back anytime soon under your ownership?
Jake Allsop, Mansfield
I love the North Stand and would love to have it back. There was a health and safety issue dating back to a game between Mansfield and Doncaster where objects were thrown at the Doncaster supporters, further preventing us from using the North Stand. Getting the North Stand back to our supporters is certainly something I want to see happen and this is something I will be speaking about to Health and Safety personnel.
Hi John, we are really excited about your comments of us hopefully being a Championship club. I have heard you may change the name of the Field Mill Stadium, is that true?
Steven Rhodes, Mansfield
No, I don't want to do that. I have not even thought about changing the stadium's name.
Do you consider David Holdsworth to be the man who can guide us to promotion?
Dave Jackson, Kikrby-in-Ashfield
Yes, I have been impressed with him so far and with his knowledge of the game. I have faith that David can deliver promotion and I am pleased with the way the team is working under him.
Will any money be given to the manager to buy players in the transfer window and if yes, how much?
Daniel Swinbourne, Blidworth
So far, David has only asked me for a couple of players, and I have granted permission to acquire these players. I would imagine we will spend a bit of money in the transfer window, but we will have to wait and see.
Can the club now compete financially with the likes of Luton and Crawley? Do you expect us to be in the top five of clubs in this league in terms highest paid players?
Matthew Shilton, Hucknall
Yes, there are no problems there at all. We can compete with the likes of the clubs mentioned with wages and things like that. The club is, however, burning money at the moment, but we may need to do this if we are to stand a chance of promotion.
It is great news that you have purchased the Stags John. Good luck for the future. Did you think about buying the football club in March 2007 when Keith Haslam first indicated that he was prepared to sell the club?
Darren Shaw, Leeds
Yes I did. However, I missed out on that opportunity. I have only just reached the stage where I can sit back a little more from my business and wouldn't have been able to give the club the time it deserved had I taken over at that particular point.
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