You still have to pinch yourself to remember that this time six years ago we were starting another season in Ashford with no concrete plan as to how the club could survive let alone go forward. Only in my wildest dreams did something akin to the Gallagher Stadium appear on the horizon looking like Old Trafford, but then again I'm not sure I want to go into too much detail about my wildest dreams...
Now we are actually starting a season in Division 5 of the professional game. Pinch, pinch. Fixtures against York and Wrexham and Tranmere are now the norm not the exception. Pinch, pinch. We only have one FA Cup match to win before we can get to Round 1. Pinch, pinch...
Terry, Bill and I rarely make formal targets for the season, just as we rarely have formal Board meetings. Of course we discuss the football just like you do and there is usually a meeting of minds, after all if we didn't have a similar outlook on matters football and business we would have fallen out long ago.
For me an admirable target for this season would be top half. Such a result would be fantastic. If you had come up to me at Homelands and said in six years time would I accept 12th in the Conference and a 4000 capacity new stadium in town with a top quality new 3G pitch I'd have torn your arm off before eating it. Well, maybe not eating it...but I may well have accepted your offer.
This close season has been frantic. We have had to commission and lay a new pitch. We have had to prepare plans for our new stand. We have had to prepare for a new division with new rules and constraints, travel on a national scale, new players to recruit and existing ones to manage, etc.
It's been a massive effort by Bill, Terry, Jay and all the club staff, who have been flat out trying to get all this in order. It is a major challenge getting everything done within the strict time limits imposed by the FA and raising vast amounts of money (close to £1,000,000 this close season) but as ever we will do our best. As long as it makes good business sense. So far that is still the case although in an ideal world we might perhaps have 'chosen' to wait another year before promotion because of all the capital project requirements which come in its wake.
Our financial results for the past season will be published soon and they are looking as encouraging as in previous seasons. Four successive seasons of increasing turnover and steady profit margins is not to be sneered at. It underpins increased capital spending on the stadium at a difficult time and encourages Terry and me to invest further as we will unfortunately still have to. The main thing is we are investing in infrastructure which will give the club a first-class home for the foreseeable future and not in a quick hit on players.
We asked the supporters to contribute through our Stand up for the Stones project and so far the response has been terrific. Many thanks to all of you who have given and thanks in advance to those who are still to give. Every contribution makes a difference, not just with this specific fund-raising but throughout the season, with tickets, merchandising, beer, in fact everything the club tries to sell. It all goes towards club funds and allows the club to operate successfully at this level. It's very simple really: every penny you spend in and around the club helps your club! So please make that extra effort for Maidstone United, go the extra yard if you can.
I'm not sure that supporters realise how much pressure is placed on clubs by The FA and Leagues with their endless rules and regulations, not always useful or fair, but which pile on stress and pressure. When Sport England threaten to cut FA funding if their structures aren't reformed and professionalised I cannot help but agree with the sentiment. The FA and Leagues should exist to help all their clubs, not just some of them, reduce their stress and remove the needless obstacles in their way and not just to expand the blazer buttons and egos of some of the officials.
Terry always accuses me of spending my every waking moment on the sunny terrace of some mythical Parisian café-bar. This is a quite scandalous accusation, the very thought of which is disturbing my Pina Colada by the pool here on vacation...from where I wish the Stones, Jay and all our new squad, all of our wonderful supporters, the very best of luck for the exciting season ahead.
Yours, Oliver Ash