DERRY CITY'S new chairman, Philip O'Doherty, has issued an upbeat New Year's message to fans of the "Candy Stripes," insisting that great progress has been made off the pitch since the Board of Directors took office just a few weeks ago.
interviews new Derry chairman as return to First Division approaches
But he also expressed his disappointment at the decision of a number of local players who have decided to move on to join other clubs.
Mr. O'Doherty (pictured below) confirmed that Derry City's new kit sponsors for next season would be the international brand, Hummel, who sponsored Cork City last season and he also had good news in relation to a new major sponsor of the Brandywell club.
"We've concluded negotiations with Hummel in relation to our kit sponsorship and the Board have secured what we consider an excellent deal," he said.
"We've had a number of meetings and we're delighted that those negotiations proved fruitful in that our new deal is probably the best kit deal we've secured in quite some time.
"By the same token, a number of business, both local and international, have expressed an interest in becoming Derry City's new main sponsors and while I can't identify names at this stage, I can confirm that we're very close to securing a deal with one of those," he added.
"We received a very good response when contacting a number of candidates for the main sponsorship and that gave us all a lift. In addition, representatives of the Board have been working particularly hard on our pitchside advertising and match sponsorship and I'm delighted to announce that we have attracted back quite a few businesses that have not been involved with Derry City for quite some time.
"So given that we've been in place for about three weeks, I think it's fair to suggest that work has been continuing behind the scenes. I'm also delighted that the new Board of Directors have worked particularly well as a group and we're in the process of meeting all those fund-raising committees who have been loyally supporting the Derry City cause for quite some time.
"Our season ticket sales and the floatation of the new share issue has also been very steady but we're hopeful that sales of season tickets and shares will continue well into the New Year as many fans appear to be waiting to see the quality of the team Stephen (Kenny) can assemble ahead of the new season."
While he admitted his personal involvement in the negotiations with potential players for next season in the company of the manager, Mr. O'Doherty claimed supporters "must be patient" but that he had detected a 'feel good factor' when speaking to players who had expressed an interest in re-signing for the club.
"I have to admit that the players I've spoken to are totally behind Derry City despite the difficulties they encountered last season," he continued. "They all realise that wage levels have dropped considerably, but they also appreciate the importance of the club to both the local community and the North-West area.
"I think it's fair to suggest that the main objective for next season is consolidation but that's not to say that we will not be attempting to gain promotion at the first attempt. We all realise that's going to be difficult given the nature of the First Division but I think everyone has now come to terms with the difficulty the club had been in and, indeed, are prepared to play their part in moving forward on a united front.
"We believe that youth must be the key to living within our means and in that regard, the Board will meet with Stephen and his coaching staff, Eddie Seydak, John Quigg and Hugh Harkin over the next few days with youth very much the main item on the agenda.
"The Board wishes to have an informal chat with them to gauge their feelings on this matter. We need to hear their ideas on how to move forward and what they need in order to achieve their objectives for the season ahead."
First Division Application
During what was a wide-ranging interview, Mr. O'Doherty also confirmed that the club's application for membership of the First Division had been submitted a few weeks ago and the Board has yet to receive any queries on that application as yet.
"We're actually hoping to gain some feed-back on our application next week and how things are progressing in that regard but I'm confident that we've provided a quality application and we're hopeful that we will secure the necessary UEFA Licence to compete in the First Division."
He went on: "Everything has gone according to plan so far, but we can't become complacent. I'd also like to make it abundantly clear that while the manager has a small budget at his disposal, that could increase provided that financial support continues. In short, Derry City would expect to have a smaller panel than in recent seasons but the more financial support we receive, the bigger that panel will become.
"We would be delighted to be in a position to provide part-time employment for more local players, but that depends very much on our level of income. As I've said, the response so far has been steady but I would appeal to others who have not had an association with the club in the recent past, to return to the Brandywell and support the team as such a move is vitally important."
On the opening of the new Social Club in Crawford Square, the chairman said he was delighted at the response of local people to support the new venture.
"The club has enjoyed excellent attendances over the festive season and that's to be welcomed. All Board meetings and meetings of the various committees will now take place in the Social Club and we've discovered that so many of our members have availed of the opportunity to call in and meet in quality surroundings to chat informally on their concerns for the club and the future.
"The club has in the region of 300 members and, as a Board, we're hopeful that the good attendances over the Christmas period will continue and that our supporters will continue to support what could prove a very important venture," added the chairman.
When discussing the number of local players who had opted to leave the club, Mr. O'Doherty expressed his disappointment but, at the same, understood the reasons behind their decisions to leave.
"Obviously, Peter Hutton's decision to move to Cliftonville was very disappointing as he has always been considered a highly influential team captain and player. However, we understand Peter's decision given that his future now lay outside football.
"We were also disappointed to see both Gareth McGlynn and Ruaidhri Higgins join Bohemians. They have all served Derry City well in the past and, who knows, they could well return to the Brandywell in years to come."
He concluded: "All in all, I'm sure you will agree that over the past three weeks the Board has been working particularly hard and the fruits of that labour is beginning to show. The quality of the individuals now leading the club is, in my opinion, top class. We have a group boasting a variety of skills and we're working well together.
"The Board has also formed a great relationship with what I would describe as a thoroughly professional team manager who now fully understands our predicament and who is also prepared to roll up his sleeves in our attempts to bring this football club back to the prominence it has enjoyed in the past."