New-look AFC Sudbury reveal plan to become biggest club in Suffolk behind Ipswich Town

NEW DIRECTION: New manager Mark Morsley explains his vision for the club at the supporters Q&A on Thursday evening     Picture: Russell Claydon
NEW DIRECTION: New manager Mark Morsley explains his vision for the club at the supporters Q&A on Thursday evening Picture: Russell Claydon

Bostick League Division One North side AFC Sudbury have revealed changes on and off the pitch in recent weeks are part of a five-year plan to become the biggest non-league club in Suffolk.

At a special-convened 'Meet The Manager And Chairman' evening at the club's King's Marsh base last night, supporters were told of an ambitious target being set for new manager Mark Morsley to make them a National League South club (two promotions from current level) within five years.

Recently-appointed vice chairman Trevor Smith, a former chairman at Chelmsford City, explained to around 50 fans there had been a re-structuring of the board following his own root-and-branch investigation of how the club was set-up and its perceived failings, which identified four areas of concern: structure of the business, finance tracking models not existing, next to no commercial activity and lack of communications.

The changes, which were approved unanimously at a shareholders meeting immediately preceding the fans Q&A, saw the 10-man board, some of whom were now over 80, the meeting was told, reduced to four 'executive directors':

* Phil Turner as chairman

* Trevor Smith as vice chairman, in charge of the football management board, and commercial director

New vice chairman Trevor Smith and manager Mark Morsley address the supporters at AFC Sudbury   Picture: Russell Claydon

New vice chairman Trevor Smith and manager Mark Morsley address the supporters at AFC Sudbury Picture: Russell Claydon

* Richard Instance as financial director

* Danny Crosbie as operations director

It was confirmed Brian Tatum will continue to act as company secretary, while the board is looking to appoint six new volunteers in new non-executive roles across various aspects of the club's activities.

The opening of questions to the floor saw the board and new manager Morsley, who has shipped out eight senior players, including record appearance holder and long-serving captain Sam Clarke, in his first few weeks in favour of academy players, immediately come under fire.

But Smith said there had been no pressure on Morsley to cut the wage bill, while Morsley said all the decisions were made for 'footballing reasons'.

"Mark has got a budget that hasn't changed. It was the same as Jamie was set. We cannot tell Mark what to do in terms of the football side," said Smith.

"We have employed Mark, me as vice chairman and Phil as the chairman. Can you imagine the board telling Alex Ferguson who to sign?

"We have put our faith in Mark, who has got a remit to get us into the National League South within five years, and that is what he is doing."

Morsley, who re-joined the club he had previously had a spell in charge of having moved into a chairman role at Needham Market, said:

"My arms are not tied behind my back. I made the decisions to clear those players out. It was my decision, and I felt the right one. I stand by that.

"My job at this football club is to build a first team, and to build one that is going to be successful.

"The approach I have taken is the same as my previous three clubs. In my opinion, the players we inherited were not going to take us where we needed to go.

"And in the meantime the process of replacing them, which takes time, gives me a great opportunity to look at the great asset we have here, which is the academy we have got over the road.

"And that is what I have done. And the rationale of doing that is, over a period of time, I will learn which of those youngsters are going to be able to be a part of what I am going to do at this football club.

"It would be utter madness to restructure and rebuild a team without looking at what you have got in the building to start with. And I wasn't prepared to do that.

"But I will finish by saying what i started with: the decisions that have been made on team matters and team selections and players coming and going are solely down to my professional opinion, and as Trevor said, I am employed to do a job here and they do not interfere in that at all."

He later added when pushed on the strength of the current starting 11: "There is no doubt in my mind that the young team we have got now, and the team fully fit now, is better than the team which was here two weeks before I arrived: technically better. competitively better and solidly better.

"You can use a sweeping statement about experienced players being physically better. But some of those experienced players we had on that pitch couldn't control a ball. In the performance I watched against Maldon (game before taking over) some of the players just weren't good enough for the pitch we are playing on.

"And I watched the next game, which was the under-18s on this pitch, and the players were technically better."

Remaining chairman Phil Turner had told the audience the new modernized model of the board, off the back of Smith's in-depth survey, could help the club 'maximize its huge potential'.

He went on to say: "The club would like to put on record its thanks and gratitude to its retiring directors, some of whom have put in 60 years of service in non-league football. People like Brian Tatum, Mick Mills, Dave Webb, Dick Burge, Keith Morris, John Smith and Danny Laws, will all be stepping down from the board.

"But to ensure the club does not lose their value, expertise and experience, they are all have agreed to continue to offer help, advise and support the new board as and when we need them.

"The club looks forward to this next exciting phase of development, with the new board and new ideas as we hope to press for the future and expand the club's success."

Smith said of the new chapter in the club's history: "We are not going to be scared to try anything new.

"We are going to have an open and honest policy. We want to be transparent, so if we are in the cart and losing money, or something is going wrong, we will be open and honest and tell you that."

He said there would be regular meetings and forums across the club, including more 'meet the manager and chairman' events to keep supporters more informed about the club, as well as giving them the opportunity to feed in their ideas and give their feedback on how things are progressing.

* For more from the meeting, including a new advanced link-up with Ipswich Town explained, see Thursday's Suffolk Free Press.