The private funeral service for my father, Trevor Hemmings, took place on the Isle Of Man on Monday 1st November. As you would expect, it was a hugely emotional and moving affair for those members of the family and close friends that attended.
But now Trevor would want us to just ‘get on with things’, and that is what we are doing.
Following his passing some fans have been asking the question - what next for PNE? Are the Hemmings family as dedicated to the on-field success of PNE as Trevor was?
I have been Chairman of PNE since June 2019 and heavily involved in the day-to-day running of PNE (as well as several other of Trevor's businesses) for many years prior to that. In fact I first came to PNE with my father in the mid-1970s and, along with my siblings, have been a fan ever since.
As I have stated previously - we wish to honour and continue his legacy.
PNE is a family club - a community club. Playing good football and winning is paramount, but the true legacy is the positive impact on the local community itself. The amazing work done by the Community and Education Trust will continue to be a focus for the club and the many charities Trevor supported (mainly privately) will also continue.
But what about the footballing side? What's the strategy? As a famous boxer once said ‘everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face!’.
As has been outlined in the past - the club works to an annual budget. This budget is dictated by numerous factors, these can range from (but are not limited to) restrictions imposed upon us by financial fair play rules (we cannot spend above a level dictated by the EFL), trading restrictions, such as global pandemic preventing the attendance of fans at games (the punch in the face no one could have foreseen) and other investment requirements across the many Hemmings family businesses, helping to support, directly and indirectly, thousands of jobs.
All of these are potential factors that must be taken into account when agreeing the annual budget.
Peter Ridsdale - working closely with all the backroom staff - is tasked with managing all the football related matters of the club. Peter is a very respected figure in the football world, his experience and knowledge are second to none. He is (on behalf of PNE) now on the EFL Board – a position voted for by the 24 Championship clubs - and as an EFL representative on the Professional Game Board (made up of representatives of The FA, The EPL and The EFL). This puts Peter at the top table for helping to shape the strategy of the EFL and football pyramid. This is extremely important in terms of helping with the future sustainability of the game and the club we all love.
Though this has been said previously I do feel it is worth repeating as there's an often misunderstood, or misreported assumption of how PNE works in the transfer market. As outlined above - Peter and the team work to an annual budget. This is extremely important for the future wellbeing and sustainability of the club. Working within our budgets the manager/head coach, the coaching staff, the technical analysts and scouts identify potential transfer targets. The selection process is not instigated by or dictated by the board, myself or Peter it originates from the coaching/scouting staff. They are the ones who outline areas of the squad they feel need improving, strengthening or changing.
Both Peter and I are very aware that not every transfer decision works - the reality is most clubs that achieve say a one in three, or one in four success rate are doing well. However, we are also well aware of the football truism that many fans believe ‘every successful signing is despite the owners/board involvement and every bad signing is because of the owners/board involvement’. This is the same truism for almost every football club. Football is a team game and that includes the recruitment process.
Only when playing targets are identified does the process of trying to negotiate to recruit them begin. This part of the jigsaw is handled by Peter. We will not always get our first or our second choice target. Sometimes the player might want too much salary. Sometimes the club just does not wish to sell their player or the player himself wants a different club.
PNE is blessed with savvy football fans who on the whole ‘get it’. They understand that we simply cannot spend what we do not have - that strategy is littered with very sad football stories of clubs spending way beyond their means. We will not do that and our fans would (rightly) be angry with us if we behaved irresponsibly.
At PNE both Peter and I strive to be an asset to the coaching/playing staff not a hindrance, but ultimately we are the ones who have to enforce our budget.
The philosophy of PNE under our ongoing stewardship remains as set out by my father, Trevor Hemmings. We want to see a strong core of youth development - home grown players coming either through our academy system (run extremely well by Nick Harrison and his coaching team) and some smart scouting of other U23/U21 youth set-ups across other clubs and focused scouting of up and coming talent from other leagues and divisions.
This approach to finding and developing youth has served us extremely well over the past ten years helping us develop/find players like Ben Davies, Josh Earl, Daniel Johnson, Callum Robinson, Ben Pearson, Josh Harrop, Alan Browne, Jordan Hugill, Ryan Ledson, Emil Riis, Ben Whiteman, Ali McCann and others.
We have also used the loan market successfully where needed e.g. with Sam Johnstone, Jermaine Beckford, Jordan Pickford, Aiden McGeady, Lukas Nmecha, Daniel Iversen and Sepp van den Berg. We will continue to do this sparingly if we can add short term quality to the squad.
This approach remains our main, but not our sole approach to player recruitment as there's always a need for balance and experience in any squad. I reiterate we will not get it right every single time - but we absolutely will try to.
Since the dawn of the professional game players will come to PNE and they will leave PNE. Some will be forever fans favourites that ‘we should have tried harder to keep... or should have offered more money to’. As the vast majority of our fans understand we cannot compete with the big transfer spends or very high wages that some of our Premier League competitors can, or clubs who have benefited from Premier League monies. That way is just not sustainable to us.
A player has every right to leave us to seek a bigger wage or higher division experience. We will proudly wish each of them our best wishes. When a player puts on a PNE shirt he must wear the badge with total pride and know that he is standing on the shoulders of giants, of legends! That is a huge responsibility. Some can carry it and rise up and others cannot. But they must each earn the right and then they must want to wear it.
When they do not want that responsibility any more (for whatever reason) we will move them on. We will then do our best to maximise our return as part of the sustainability of the club. The transfer money we receive is then reinvested, whether in player recruitment, increased squad wages, investment into the stadium, the training complex etc. The Hemmings family have never taken any investment out of PNE. Every single penny received from transfer fees has gone back into the club.
We are simply custodians of our beloved PNE for the people of Preston. It is our goal to leave the club in better condition than when we took it over (when/if that day eventually comes). We hope that you agree our approach to having sensible and manageable financial safeguards is the best and most sustainable way of ensuring the club is there for future generations.
The club are hugely grateful for the loyal support that it has always enjoyed from PNE fans, we do not take any of it for granted, as it is your very hard earned money you are spending week in and week out. We hope that together we can provide a future where success on the pitch provides an appropriate legacy to Trevor's longstanding financial support and love for the club.