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Message from Charles Manchester

I have decided to step down as a director and as chairman of Chesham United, effective after Saturday’s end of season awards.

I got involved at the club just over 4 years ago when it was facing insolvency. I said at the time that it hasn’t been a lifelong ambition of mine to own a football club – I just wanted to help solve the club’s crisis. Now seems an appropriate time to move on.

The club has come a long way, both on and off the pitch. If we look back to mid-February 2006, relegation was almost inevitable – we hadn’t won a game for several months. Since then, we’ve had exciting cup runs in both FA Cup and FA Trophy under Andy Leese’s management, beating some much higher placed teams. We’ve always been there or thereabouts in the battle for promotion and, on Saturday, we achieved that promotion in front of over 1,000 people.

Off the pitch, we’ve reduced the club’s debt, which is at manageable proportions. Some of the money put in by Mike Dickson and myself shows in the accounts filed at Companies House as debt, being directors’ loans; Mike and I are converting this debt to non-voting share capital, so the only debt that the club will have going forward is the reduced amount owed to Nat West, currently standing at just over £40,000. Every overdue trade creditor was paid in full in 2006 and we have lived within normal terms of trade since. We pay our PAYE, NI and VAT on time and have financial management processes that mean the board knows the club’s financial position and resources at all times. Of course, the club’s income ebbs and flows with the economy, which affects sponsors and donations, and also with success on the pitch in terms of prize money and attendance, but I am confident that the board has the tools necessary to make the right spending decisions.

When I came to the club, I said that my objective was for the club to be run by its supporters. That’s why I immediately changed the ownership structure such that the largest voting shareholder became – and still is – the Supporters Trust. I expect the Trust to become the majority and therefore controlling shareholder over the next year or two. I also changed the board structure to give supporters representation on the board and, right now, you could say that at least 3 of the directors would regard themselves as representing supporters. Alan Calder, who will become Chairman next week, and his colleagues are very sensible people, motivated only by the good of the club; they have proven capable of making decisions based on good sense. They will need the continued support of the volunteers and fans, as well as the financial support of local businesses through advertising and sponsorship and of supporters through donations.

Andy Leese is a great manager. He’s worked within his budget constraints and rarely taken any remuneration. He and Jon Meakes have been with the club now for 3 years and attracted some excellent players. A UEFA B-licensed coach, I’ll remember Andy’s suicidal misery on losing matches we shouldn’t have lost, his delight and pride at winning when we shouldn’t have won, his relaxed ease for extended periods with a microphone but most importantly his abilities as a tactician, scout, coach and manager, exemplified last week by getting the tactics at Burnham so absolutely right and at the same time getting them implemented by the players so well, then doing the same so differently against Slough on Saturday. Every player was a giant and I’d urge as many of you as can to turn up at the club at 7.30 p.m. on Saturday to thank them all. There were a lot of new faces at The Meadow on Saturday – I hope they’ll continue to come.

2010 saw the introduction of the Push for Promotion initiative. This allows supporters to help with the playing budget and will hopefully continue next season as the club strives to consolidate its position at Step 3 of the non-league pyramid.

This club couldn’t exist without the combined efforts of all of the directors and volunteer helpers, none of whom is paid a bean. There is a solid core of brilliant support and I hope that our promotion will help that to grow. If I may, I’d just like to name a few people who have made my time at the helm so much easier:

Alan Lagden, partly just for being Alan Lagden – one of a kind – but mainly for his countless unpaid hours as secretary, dealing with everything from the data entry into our accounting system, frightening off health and safety inspectors (in his own inimitable style) to chasing around in his car (without ever claiming a penny in expenses) getting signatures on registration forms.

Alan Calder – your new chairman. Alan is a diehard supporter and lives and breathes Chesham United. Neil, his father, prefers The Meadow to Stamford Bridge (mind you, who wouldn’t!). Then there’s the Calder wives, Heather and Jacky, who help so much on match days along with Chrissy Lagden.

Mike Dragisic works tirelessly on the essential but less public things that enable our Youth and Reserve teams to function.

Mike Warrick, who is closely involved in the financial management and has been indispensible over the last year.

Maverick and George – unsung heroes for all the practical work they do in the summer and on the turnstile.

Craig Ringsell – our groundsman – who managed to grow and keep grass on a pitch that has varied from bog to sandpit in the past and now allows good football to be played.

Colin Beton – grandfather and bar manager, also a director for a couple of years.

Andy and Barry Hart and Paul Vockins – again unsung but indispensably doing stuff like kit cleaning, changing room cleaning and preparing breakfasts before the away coach trips.

Martin Gould – who became a director as the crisis became evident in 2006 and even guaranteed an emergency loan.

Rob Goldhawk – another director who put a lot of work into the administrative stuff imposed on any business these days.

Rob and Martin have also resigned as directors as of the end of April.

Simon and James Newbury – for match reports, company secretarial and wageroll work.

I’m sorry if I’ve missed anyone – it’s been a long day.

As well as the helpers, the club couldn’t survive without its advertisers and sponsors. They are already listed in our web site and have my utmost appreciation. We need many more. It’s a tough time for all businesses but their local profile is enhanced through supporting the club, especially now that the its profile is very much back on the map.

I’ve enjoyed my time as chairman but feel that I’ve done most of what I planned to do. I’ve started a new business in Chesham and have other business interests that are absorbing an increasing amount of my time. This is a fantastic club. It’s the right time to pass on the reins and I know that I’m leaving it in good hands and will continue to support it however I can.

See you on Saturday.

Charles

Charles Manchester (Chairman)