When Wayne Bradley took over at North Street in 1997/98 season, Alfreton Town FC were competing in the Northern Counties East League. So when he declared his intentions to take the club to the Conference, his intentions were scoffed at. But, proving the doubters wrong, they pulled it off. Bradley talks Alfreton’s aims for the season, managerial scapegoats and how non-league football has changed since taking over the club…
You first took over at Alfreton in the 1997/98, what was your history with the club prior to that, and what made you want to take the giant leap into running a football club?
I had no involvement with the club prior to the 1997/98 Season, I had come to an end of playing the game and managing the game and, as such, was tempted into running a club in its entirety.
When you first took over at the club, you stated that your aim was to take Alfreton into the non-league top flight – a statement which was scoffed at by many – but now that you’ve achieved that feat, is the Football League reachable?
Reaching the Football League is achievable from a point of stadia facilities, etc. All of those factors have been addressed during the seventeen years of running the club. Achieving the needed promotions on the field of play would, however, take a financing beyond the current levels. That financing, if sustainable, could only come from increasing of support levels and the income that, that brings. At the moment we would need to four-fold our averages for a challenge into the football league to be feasible.
At the end of last season, despite the club’s highest ever finish, you announced your intentions to sell up. What were your reasons for wanting to walk away, and is the club still on the market?
I announced my intentions to seek investment. This being an alternative to the constant search for income via increased attendances. That investment was being sought in either part or a total sell up from myself to the right buyers who could demonstrate both desire and financial ability to take the club into the Football League. Whilst investors have been found I am always looking for further investment, again either in part of totality.
Earlier on in the year, the club announced that investment will be made from a Texas-based firm. In what ways will this boost the club, on and off the field?
The Club will be boosted by the expertise that the US investors will bring and it is hoped that in turn, the stadia development will continue at a pace and the on-field improvements will continue
The club was relegated from the Vanarama Conference, after four years, on the last day of the season, following a 7-0 defeat by Bristol Rovers. Obviously any relegation must be hard to take, but going down on goal difference must’ve been a real kick in the teeth?
To have avoided relegation we would have had obviously only needed to have found one additional point during the season. Having analysed all of our results I can too easily find twenty points that we should have additionally gained. That said, the game of football is too easily analysed away from the heat of any one fixture. Whilst the relegation was disappointing, it has helped the club to re-focus and re-evaluate its aims.
Did relegation surprise you, especially after the club finished in its highest ever place (11th) last term – and, in your opinion, what aspects of the season were to blame for the drop?
Our aim from the offset of the season was to win the mini league of five that we compared ourselves to in the division. It was disappointing to finish second in that league but no surprise to be, therefore, relegated with a fourth from bottom finish. The previous season we gave ourselves the same aim and in finishing eleventh in the division, we clearly over performed
Do you think you will bounce straight back from the Conference North? They’ll be stiff competition in the division; FC United of Manchester who will be well- backed, and of course those teams that have fallen from grace in recent years, ie Stockport and Boston, who will always be tough nuts to crack!
No! We must pay respect to the competition that we face in the season ahead. Our analysation suggests that an eighth place finish would be reasonable. We will, however, attempt to better that and sneak into the play offs.
You’ve stuck with manager Nicky Law since 2007, do you think football chairmen are too quick to swing the axe these days?
When a football club fails to either achieve its on field, or off field targets, those at the helm of the club too easily blame others. The manager is on too many occasions seen as the scapegoat and his job is lost. In my book, there is only one person who should be held accountable for club failure and that is the Chairman.
When you first took over in 1997/98, Barnsley were in the Premier League, Dion Dublin was joint top-scorer, and Manchester City were relegated from the Championship (then Division One) – what have been the biggest changes to game, at non-league level in that time?
The biggest changes I have witnessed at non league level is the rise in quality of the players who ply their trade at all levels. We have seen in the past season, two players rise from non league to gain international caps for representing England. If that had been suggested 17 years ago it would have been frowned upon. It is time for the FA to embrace the non league system and accept that a huge volume of talent exists in the levels that should be nurtured and helped. With that assistance the two players that were elevated could become ten players.
A couple of years ago there was talk of awarding a third promotion place to the Conference. Obviously this would suit the likes of Alfreton, who are below the line, but do you think this would help or harm the football pyramid as a whole?
A third place promotion into the Football League is desperately required
If you could re-live any of the past 17 years, what would you do differently, if anything?
I would have slowed down the pace so as to have enjoyed the success achieved. The alternative was to constantly push on to the next level.
Many thanks for taking the time out to speak to us, we wish you and Alfreton Town FC the best of luck for the season and future.