As we prepare to welcome everyone to the JobServe Community Stadium for this weekend's Annual Open Day, chairman Robbie Cowling has penned the following piece for the club website.
I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and looking forward to the new season.
It’s been a very busy summer, so if I try to cover everything in this statement it would get a bit long winded. Therefore I'll touch on a few subjects now and if anyone wants any further details, please come to Sunday's Open Day where John McGreal and I will be doing our usual Q & A session.
I'd like to start by thanking everyone who has already purchased tickets and every business that has committed to sponsorship deals for the forthcoming season. Funds that come into the club in the summer are really helpful and your support is really appreciated.
Everyone is back in for pre-season and, as usual, there are some new faces that we welcome to Colchester United and a few missing faces that have moved on to pastures new. The departures this year are more noteworthy than most years, with some very big characters leaving the club.
Sammie Szmodics and Frankie Kent have departed to progress their careers at Bristol City and Peterborough United respectively. I've really enjoyed watching their progress from boys to men, from academy starlets to first team role models. Both of these young men have been a credit to our club and I look forward to seeing them progress even further in the game.
We begin most games with 5 or 6 academy products in the starting line up, many who have now played over 100 games. Their progress benefits massively from those early experiences, but it has obviously taken some very brave selection decisions from our managers over the last 6 years and not every player introduced into our first team will go on to play 100 games for us, become a club legend and then go on into the Championship.
Introducing young players is now a part of our DNA and making brave selection decisions is vital if we are going to continue to exploit the talent we are producing.
Our investment in youth is starting to pay off and the departures of Sammie and Frankie will inevitably be followed by other academy products leaving our club to progress their careers too.
It's never easy to replace players of such quality but we received decent transfer fees for both players and all football clubs in today's highly competitive professional leagues need a financial model that will allow them to not just survive but thrive without relying on an owner's financial support.
We still have some way to go to reach that point and I'm happy to provide the financial support and make the investments the club needs to fulfil my long term aim to make Colchester United financially independent.
Not everyone will get the opportunities they need at Colchester. Some talent like Macauley Bonne and Freddie Ladapo need to find opportunities elsewhere to fulfil their potentials. If I get to see them before they go, the last thing I normally say to a boy we release is "go and prove us wrong".
Of course I would prefer it if they had blossomed at Colchester United but I'm still delighted for Macauley and Freddie who have managed to secure moves to Charlton and Rotherham this Summer.
Tony Flynn, Kevin Horlock, Chris Llewellyn and Rene Gilmartin have all left over the summer. These are all big characters who will be missed but I wish them all well in their new roles.
With so many leaving at once it would be easy to conclude that there is some kind of problem at the club that has forced this to suddenly happen, but it really is not the case.
The problem we do face, however, is replacing them (and Jon De Souza who has become Director of Performance) because they were all exceptionally good at their jobs. However, I have a motto that there's an opportunity in every problem and we have some exciting replacements about to embrace those opportunities.
On matchdays this season there will be a number of changes being introduced which will either improve the matchday experience for fans, improve the operation of the stadium for the club or do both of those things. Some examples are:-
1. For those of you who buy online, we have upgraded the scanners at the turnstiles so that they will read the ticket from your mobile phone.
2. During the early part of the season, the Supporters Bar will be transitioned into a fan zone where we will aim to get the whole matchday experience at the stadium started much earlier.
3. The numerous points of sales at the stadium will not be taking cash on matchdays. We have around 60 points points of sales and handling 60 cash floats is a financial burden that takes too much away from the club who need to make every penny it can on these occasions. We will make a few kiosks available where cash can be added to a club card, but please bring your alternatives to cash if at all possible.
4. Over the season we will be introducing various online technologies to beat the queues at our food and retail outlets. This is technology we are developing ourselves and, if it is successful, we would have a product we could sell to other clubs thereby introducing a further income stream for the club.
The first team kits are normally introduced just before the Open Day, but I'm going to use this statement to give a clue to the look of this year’s home kit. For most years, but certainly not all of them, the Colchester kit is blue and white stripes. This year is one of those years where we are going to make an exception. The clue to what can be expected is that I hope this year's kit will repeat the amazing cup success Colchester last had when they wore a very similar kit.
Finally, on a much sadder note, I would just like to take this opportunity to make a personal appeal for anyone who may have been in Maldon on the evening of Saturday 29th June and witnessed anything that might help police to identify what happened at around 8.50pm, when 27-year-old Daryl Bunn was attacked in Maldon High Street and sadly lost his life.
Daryl has a close link to our club and anything we can do to help the police with their enquiries would be greatly appreciated.
Anyone with information is asked to call our Essex Major Crime Team on 101 quoting crime references 42/102558/19 and 42/102562/19 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.