FC Halifax Town: "Our desire to get into the Football League has not diminished" - David Bosomworth on football, finances and Pete Wild

Town chairman David Bosomworth says his desire to get the club into the Football League remains undiminished.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 8:39 am
Updated Monday, 11th October 2021, 8:42 am
David Bosomworth

Bosomworth has been chairman for 13 years and overseen four promotions and an FA Trophy win at Wembley, but has repeatedly reiterated his biggest ambition is to lead The Shaymen back into the Football League.

Town have twice reached the National League play-offs under Bosomworth, and their start to this season suggests they could do so again.

And Bosomworth says he is still excited and enthused at being chairman.

"We're all frustrated sometimes by the decisions you have to make based on the funds you haven't got, but so long as I feel that we're pushing Halifax in the right direction then I'm more than happy, as it stands, to continue," he said.

"I think everybody knows when they've spent too long somewhere or aren't affecting something.

"I'm sure there are those fans who would like someone to come along waving wads of notes.

"Our desire to get into the Football League has not diminished but the job has got more difficult.

"If you get into the play-offs, anything can happen."

Bosomworth accepts that Town are competing in a totally different environment to the National League they first joined under Neil Aspin in 2013.

"The ante has been upped for sure," he said.

"Wrexham, Stockport and Chesterfield are the headliners in that respect, but you've got Notts County who will be big spenders because they attract big crowds.

"That's what makes the difference really from the likes of ourselves.

"If you're getting gate receipts of more than a million pounds, then it gives you more clout.

"But it's not just those teams, you've got Dagenham and Redbridge, Bromley and Solihull Moors, there are a lot of big spenders elsewhere.

"The clout's got bigger and the depth of it has got greater.

"The mantra was that we want to get FC Halifax Town into the Football League and to join where Halifax Town AFC had been.

"The landscape's changed beyond all recognition from the 12 or 13 years ago when Halifax Town AFC were in the Conference.

"For anybody to say the National League's not very good really needs to take a close look because the quality of the players coming down now is making it League Three in all but name.

"I think you could take the top half of the division and stick it in League Two and it would compete very well.

"Some of the budgets being spent are bigger than those in League Two and one or two in League One."

So how does a club like Halifax, with comparatively limited resources, compete?

"Money does help, because it might bring you a squad with two or three more players, which allows you for example if somebody's 85 or 90 per cent fit, you don't have to play them because you can bring someone else in to fill the role," Bosomworth said.

"That is an advantage because you're giving someone an extra week or two to get fit, and when you're playing with injuries you run the risk of worsening them or getting another injury.

"Also, if you've got depth in your squad, you've got more chance of having somebody who's going to influence the game in the first 11 but also on your bench, you'll have players who can change games.

"You need luck with injuries, look at the impact on Liverpool when they lost Virgil Van Dijk.

"You need a good team spirit, you need players that are committed to one another, you need a bit of steel in there, good pros to help the younger ones through games and give them confidence."

Bosomworth is positive about the financial state of the club though, and says a lot of good work is being done behind-the-scenes.

"The most important thing is we need to get the fans through the gate," he said.

"We've seen a general increase in the numbers coming in, but we've also been blessed by Altrincham, Southend and Stockport having good travelling support.

"The cricket season's now finished so that allows people to come.

"I think people might have been disappointed with the lack of pre-season matches and not knowing who we were bringing in.

"Season tickets have held up well from last year, we've virtually sold the same number, and our sponsors are supporting us incredibly well.

"The take-up for banqueting and match sponsorships is good, John Williams (commercial director) is bringing in new sponsors for different areas which we've discussed and worked on, like business partners and pitch partners.

"We hope it will continue to grow as the season unfolds.

"We need to get the hardcore of support between 2,000 and 2,500 to show real progress.

"But I guess that's dependent on a winning team."

When asked about the loan from Sport England that the club applied for earlier this year, Bosomworth said: "We applied for the Sport England loan and it was accepted, but we were only offered half the amount we originally asked for.

"We'll shortly be in a position where we talk more about the detail on that.

"We're like anyone else - I'm not saying we're cash rich, we're not - we've taken in the loan from Sport England.

"Some clubs have already spent that money, some have spent most of it and are still working with.

"We're a mixture of both, we've spent some of it and are using some to hopefully make up for the time it takes to get people back on board after not going out watching sport live, to get the bug again or to feel confident again to come to the games.

"You always have more money in the early part of the season because you get the central distribution, there's the loan money, you've got your season ticket money, but that soon erodes as you pay wages and have all the costs.

"Our favourite at the moment is cost of scans, which is nearly in double figures already!"

Bosomworth admitted that, without the loan from Sport England, Halifax and other clubs would have been struggling.

"It would have been very difficult, but we wouldn't have been alone," he said.

"If we hadn't got it, I don't think others would have.

"We had to do a very in-depth provision of information, and it goes through all the consideration levels they require by the government and Sport England, and it all has to be ratified by the FA and the National League."

Bosomworth said that, with costs rising, it was a reluctant but necessary decision to increase admission prices.

"This is where the chairman's lot is not an easy one because you're talking about boring things like cost of stewards, medial people, match officials, which have all gone up," he said.

"So we've had to increase the way we bring some of the money in, including increasing from £20 to £21 the senior matchday ticket price.

"It's not something we want to do, ideally we'd like to bring prices down but it comes down to what happens on the pitch.

"We can do incentives, and we have done, but a winning team and good football is what attracts people.

"And I do feel the quality of the football we've played so far this season has been excellent and is a different style to what we've played previously.

"We did try it last season but probably didn't quite have the players in the right positions to allow us to play what is a refreshing method of playing.

"It is very good to watch, we just need to keep key players fit."

The return of Gareth McClelland as head of recruitment earlier this year should help Town in their search for hidden gems that can then be polished by manager Pete Wild and assistant Chris Millington, who have both worked in youth development, and potentially sold on and generate extra revenue.

"We've previously found players who have got a bit disaffected by the game or been released by clubs in higher divisions, it's just trying to find them at the right time and whether their careers can kick on," Bosomworth said.

"They might be playing lower down, there's always a risk with them and lot of time involved on the coaching side.

"At the end of the Boreham Wood game the other week, the average age of the team was just under 23 years old, which is outstanding.

"There's people who help alert us to these players but it's having the time to go and have a look.

"We have to do our due diligence on players before we sign them but obviously Pete is busy with the team and the fixtures, which absorb a lot of time, so it's difficult to get out and see those players."

More immediately, Bosomworth said there was some wriggle room left in the this season's playing budget.

"We do feel that there's a couple of areas we want to strengthen on the pitch," he said.

"The manager's worked hard and we bid hard, particularly for strikers. We've probably had four strikers who have joined rival teams.

"So we're looking at the right players but it's just being able to bring them in.

"With the loss of Neill Byrne we perhaps need to bring one more experienced defender in, but having said that, we've brought Jesse Debrah in and he's done very well and he'll be given every chance."

But Bosomworth says it is always a balancing act of spending but not over-spending.

"We weren't here when the begging bowls were out, we try and manage it on the basis of being prudent, but at the same time, sometimes you do have to speculate to accumulate," he said.

"Let me remind people, we did that with Jamie Vardy and Lee Gregory. I think it's fair to say I went way beyond where the manager wanted to secure those two excellent players, and there have been others where we've spent money to bring players in."

On Town boss Wild, who Bosomworth appointed in summer 2019, the chairman said: "We're punching above our weight, and we're doing that because Pete works really hard and he's got good people around him.

"He tries to maximise everything out of every single person, from the players to the physio to the kit man.

"He's a very driven character and he wants to win. Perhaps on odd occasions that exuberance goes outside the FA's perimeters!

"But he wears his heart on his sleeve, and he only wants the best for the club and himself.

"I think he's doing a really good job, he knows where I am if he needs to speak but we chat regularly.

"We might question whether we want to sign a player for example, but we've always said we'll never cross the line in terms of interfering with the manager's decisions. He has a budget and he spends that budget how he chooses, and he's judged by the results."

Wild recently completed his masters in sports coaching, something Bosomworth admires about the Town manager, who he says is improving all the time in the role.

"Of course. He is young, he's still learning, he's taking all his badges and doing all the right things, studying outside of the job to better himself and put him in a good position for the future," he said.

"At some point, I'm sure Pete will move on to bigger and better things, but right now I think he's in a good place where perhaps, like Chris Wilder, he's serving his apprenticeship at the belt and braces end of the game, learning to cope with the frustrations that come along with that, which stands you in good stead if and when you get a job higher up the league."

But for now, as well as a possible play-off finish, Bosomworth says what he wants more than anything is another good cup-run.

"We loved the FA trophy final, that was special, we loved getting into the play-offs," he said.

"I'm yearning for a bit of an FA Cup run this season, which would be nice, and I'm sure the manager is too.

"That generates some revenue as well, especially if you can get on television.

"There's nothing like the buzz of a cup run, that's something I'd love to see.

"It won't be for the lack of trying."

This article was originally published in the Halifax Courier on Thursday, October 7.