Can I start by saying the points made in this release are mine and mine alone and are not an official position of Needham Market FC. They are written purely to put my points across to cover what I believe is the truth are done so without prejudice.
Following on from the story printed in todays Bury Free Press regarding the position that surrounded Adam leaving our football club, I feel that there are points in this story that need to be clarified. I also feel that I should put my position straight in this and also inform our supporters (and other readers of my Musings) of the impact running this story will have.
In the first instance let me clarify my actions that surrounded the initial club fine that relates to the alleged ‘spitting’ incident. It is true that initially I fined Adam 2 weeks’ wages and suspended him from 1st team games for a period of time. This was not something that was done lightly but it was done after talking to a number of people, 2 of which were Needham players who informed me that he had in fact spat at the Staines player.
Although I had not seen the incident myself, I was pretty certain based on the reaction of the Staines player on the pitch and then in the bar afterwards that something pretty serious had gone on. Being spat at is pretty much as low as it gets and certainly most people would react in such a way if it had happened to them.
Under the terms of Adam's FA contract, he could appeal my decision and following the involvement of his Father Geoff Mills this was muted and a copy of the video of the game was made available to me. Interestingly in the BFP Mr Mills states the video ‘shows enough to back his son’s total denial’.
Well although that makes interesting reading the truth is that the video does not actual show Adam when the alleged incident took place. It was actually showing another part of the game and when he came back into shot he is seen to be verbally abusing the Staines player.
At that stage if I had wanted to prove my allegation and implement the fine and ban I would have had to ask the players, who spoke to me in confidence, to give evidence at a hearing something I was not prepared to undertake. These players trusted my integrity by keeping their statements to myself and I had no intention of breaking that trust.
However, this incident was not the first time Adam has had disciplinary issues (he was fined previously in the season for a disgraceful challenge in the FA Cup reply against Stanway Rovers when he received a straight red card). I would also add that the involvement of his Father in this also made Adams future at the football club untenable and he was therefore placed on the transfer list.
It is interesting that the family Mills statement in the BFP states that my comment that the reason for him be made available for transfer was due to a ‘recent lack of game time’ and that was why they went to the press. That again is an interesting twist because the reason I said that was to preserve the integrity of the player and his reputation.
In fact, this whole ridiculous situation has really got out of hand and is possibly another incident where the involvement of a parent has either ruined or severally hampered a son's football progress. It is a common occurrence at professional Academies where a player might lose his scholarship because the coaches opinion of the player is tainted by the input from a parent.
I truly believe that Adam would have taken his punishment in this incident and then would have continued as a Needham player. It is important to point out that a key part of my philosophy for our football club is to bring on young players. Adam played a lot of football because my staff worked hard on his obvious potential and I was prepared to give him the chance to excel at a tender age.
In addition to that I will personally miss the lad, I liked him immensely. I have no doubt that I was managing his football career in the right way and part of that education was around teaching him the importance of discipline. That responsibility now moves to my old mate (and a previous Head Coach of mine) Steve Ball at Maldon & Tiptree. Hopefully Adam will listen and learn from a manager who has played at the highest level and I truly wish him all the best going forward.
I would now like to move on to the Bury Free Press and in particular the reporter/editor who ran this story, Russell Claydon. Russell spoke to me on two occasions regarding this story and I told him that if he runs it then the BFP would no longer receive any comments or stories from me, my football club and they would not be welcome at any Needham games.
My reason for taking this stance is two fold. Firstly, I believe that the role of the BFP is to report on local issues and that relates to football stories. Many people buy the paper to read about Needham Market FC as well as other local teams. This paper has some really good reporters; Sam Murley I have dealt with many times and is excellent, Alex Moss is a great lad and is carving a future out in the press and of course the Number 1 reporter from the BFP (and others, although he has now been promoted) is Derek Bish. These guys know what this paper is about and they understand non-league football.
Secondly, the relationship with a non-league football manager and the press is important and a 2-way street. Having been managing non-league teams for nearly 20 years I get to hear or create many stories and have also made some pretty big signings myself. When this happens I will give the press the ‘heads up’ to help with their job and have done this to the BFP many times. In addition, I am one of the most approachable individuals and can always be contacted for a story or a comment at just about any time. So when an individual approaches them with a story that is inaccurate in many ways and clearly being done to create a slur on a managers’ name, I feel that the relationship that has been built up over the years should mean something and the story should be shredded. It is interesting that the BFP were actually the second choice for Family Mills’ story as another football media outlook disregarded it as a ‘non’ story having spoken to me about it.
For Mr Claydon however this is not the case. He needs to realise that it is not the Sun or Daily Star that he works for, it is a regional newspaper that gives excellent news about the things that matter to the local people. Its interesting that this is not the first time he has been involved in stories that he feels can raise his personal profile, with the upshot that his paper have had major fall outs with AFC Sudbury and Hadleigh United. Like Needham Market they are excellent clubs run by really good committed people and do not deserve to have cheap shots aimed at them by a second rate reporter.
So at the end of this who are the winners and losers in this press pantomime?
Well family Mills may feel they have ‘scored some points’ against me but what has happened is Adam’s standing amongst experienced non-league managers will have dropped immensely. A few have contacted me already and the term ‘trouble maker’ has been mentioned to me. It is not always just about ability, the importance of the group matters and as the saying goes, there is no I in team. So the first loser in this would have to be Adams integrity which I had tried to protect.
The next losers are the Bury Free Press because they will no longer be able to report on our games and how the football club is developing. We are a progressive club run by excellent people, we have 2 academies and we are ambitious. All this points to good stories going forward and I suspect that the supporters in and around Needham will no longer be spending their £1.20 each week on the BFP. That then means the next losers are the local outlets that sell the paper.
Russell Claydon also does not come out of this well either. Not only will the readers of the story see it for what it is, they will always relate this to him. He clearly feels that his newspaper needs a bit of ‘shock and awe’ but I am not sure that printing the personal agenda of one individual is that. I suspect that the signing of Ian Westlake or Kem Izzet that I gave to the paper as an exclusive in the past did more for the longer term circulation than a frustrated editor who runs a story that helps to reduce the sales? Probably best that is not included in his CV when it is sent to Rupert Murdoch.
As for me, well I think I am pretty neutral in all of this. There will still be people who are not fans of me and there will still be people who think a lot of me. That is what happens as a football manager, particularly one who is as outspoken as I am.
What it will not do is reduce my ambition for Needham Market Football Club going forward. When todays BFP is wrapped around tomorrows fish and chips I will be taking on Leatherhead with a group of players committed to the cause, following which I will discuss the game with the members of the media who want to report on real stories.
THE NEEDHAM MARKET FC NEWS DESK AT THE BFP