OUR two SMISA-appointed St Mirren directors, David Riley (DR) and John Needham (JN), provide an update to members on what’s been happening at the club over the last few months and what lies ahead.
Q: It’s been three months since our last directors’ Q&A – can you update the members on the main things that have been keeping the St Mirren board busy during that period please?
DR: Sure. It has been great to see the team come together and climb the league, despite falling just short of claiming a place in the top six. We are all confident they will continue to push hard to finish in seventh spot and hopefully enjoy a run in the Scottish Cup, too.
Behind the scenes we have been working on the plans for getting fans safely back into the stadium. No one knows how that will happen or what it will look like but our fans can rest assured that we will do everything possible and meet every requirement to ensure as many as possible are able to attend matches next season.
If restrictions on numbers are still in place, we will be looking to ensure that live streaming continues to be available for those who can’t be accommodated. This isn’t guaranteed but we will ensure our voice is heard in any discussions.
As always, we are monitoring the budget and planning for season 2021/22 to provide the manager with the funds, facilities and resources he needs to ensure the team keeps improving.
As advised in a previous update, we are constantly looking to improve the matchday experience for our fans and to that end we are making very good progress. More on those next time.
Q: One of the major recent developments was, of course, the decision to hand manager Jim Goodwin an extended contract. Can you give a little background as to how that decision was reached and the reasons behind it?
DR: Jim is recognised throughout the game as one of the top young managers in the country. From the first interview it was clear that he has the desire and skill set to succeed and ambitions that matched those of the Board.
He has navigated his way through one of the most difficult seasons any manager will ever go through – just look at some of the managerial casualties – and only just missed out on a top six finish.
Jim is committed to taking the club as far as possible and it was only right that the Board made the same commitment to him by offering a contract extension which we are all very happy has been signed. We will support Jim every step of the way to help bring future success to the club.
Q: How has the relative certainty over knowing what division the club will likely be in next season helped with forward planning? Has the club been able to put plans in place for next season in terms of enhancing the playing squad?
JN: It certainly has been a help. However, the club had embarked on a strategy last summer to sign players on longer-term deals to reduce the churn of players every close season. As a result, around 15 of the squad are already signed up for next year and that solid platform will hopefully allow us to attract better quality players to strengthen the squad further.
Targets have already been identified and we all hope that Jim and Tony’s success in the transfer market will continue.
That said, the most important thing in terms of future planning is financial stability. The Board’s financial strategy at the club in recent years has meant we are well placed to continue improving the squad without over-stretching the finances.
Q: It now sadly looks like supporters won’t be able to attend matches at the SMISA Stadium this season. What’s the latest guidance in terms of getting fans back into grounds next season?
DR: Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the pandemic like everyone else. As the First Minister and Chief Medical Officer have said, we will be guided by data, not dates, so we need to have plans in place to cover all possible scenarios and be ready to adapt to changes at very short notice…and we will.
The vaccination programme is progressing well so by summer I hope we will be well placed as a country to get back to something very close to normal.
Those of us on the Board have been fortunate to be able to attend matches this season but I can say with absolute certainty – and I know I speak for all of my fellow Directors – that football is nothing without fans. We truly can’t wait to get everyone back inside the stadium roaring the team on. That first day back will be hugely emotional for everyone; fans, players, management, staff and maybe even the polis!
Q: Have there been any new commercial developments taking place behind the scenes that members might be keen to learn about?
JN: The Directors are constantly looking at ways to improve the returns from our commercial activities, albeit this year efforts have been focused on ensuring losses from COVID were mitigated.
We do have plans for increasing the use of the stadium (once it’s safe to do so) and driving up income and hope to make announcements on these initiatives in the coming months.
Whilst COVID restrictions have had adverse impacts they have also forced us into developing things like SMTV to enable streaming games in greater numbers which has generated significant income.
We are also seeing the benefits of sharing skills and resources from Kibble in the likes of marketing where the “Be in that Number” campaign was a huge success. Also, the eye-catching billboard advertising that continues around the area.
Q: Supporters were excited to see 16 year-old Dylan Reid make his first-team debut recently. Are the board encouraged by the signs coming out of Ralston in terms of youth development?
JN: Our Academy is a real source of justifiable pride and the work done by Allan McManus and his team is greatly appreciated by the Board. It’s essential their good work continues and investment in the Academy is a central part of our strategy.
Dylan will hopefully become the latest in a long line of talented young players we’ve been able to enjoy seeing in the stripes.
This season we’ve also seen Kyle, Ethan and Cammy further establish themselves as regulars with Lewis and Jay knocking at the door too. It’s great to see these guys getting a chance to gain experience and improve.
An added bonus has been the successful recruitment of young talent from elsewhere such as Conor McCarthy and Jamie McGrath to augment our homegrown Academy graduates.
At St Mirren we’ve a great reputation for giving youth an opportunity to flourish and I’m sure that will continue.