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Club News

An End Of Season Update From The Chairman

14 May 2024

Club News

An End Of Season Update From The Chairman

14 May 2024

As another tough Championship football season ends, like a lot of the PNE fans, I have mixed emotions. We had the high of the amazing beginning to the season, unbeaten in the first eight games, our best ever start.

This was followed by the low of the Autumn slump and then the return to good form post-Christmas. Had I written this overview with five games to go, when we had an outside chance of a place in the Play-Offs, I would have been upbeat about our overall season and the progress we’ve made.

Unfortunately, the results in our last five games were totally unacceptable. The end of the season therefore leaves me with the feeling of disappointment. The players, the manager, coaches, and everyone at the club feel like we have let the fans down - that ultimately, we should have done better.

Even though we did manage to finish 10th in the league, I believe we should have mounted a better challenge for a Play-Off place, and we absolutely should have ended the season with more points. For this I am as disappointed as any other fan.

When I put emotion to one side, I can appreciate that finishing in 10th position is an achievement. Rest assured though, when each season begins, mid-table is not our goal. Play-Offs and promotion is the goal.

There’s a small but vocal group of online fans that consistently accuse me of not caring, stating that mid-table is my ambition. This could not be further from the truth and it is deeply insulting to all those hard-working people at PNE who day in and day out strive to improve the club.

Mid-table is not our goal – the Premier League is, but I will not diminish the significance of finishing 10th, especially when considering the fact that the Championship is one of the hardest and most relentless leagues in the world.

There are some mitigating circumstances to the points tally being below what I believe it should have been. We suffered a number of injuries to key players during the run-in. Also, as fans will appreciate, during any given season no matter how well prepared the team are, every team needs an element of luck to help them push for the Play-Offs.

It is vital that those key decisions go in their favour. We were on the wrong end of some 15 Key Match Incident (KMI) decisions which, in my opinion, cost us a minimum ten points. Each apology acknowledging the crucial decisions against us that the referees got wrong just adds to our frustration. 

It is a fact of the game that refereeing mistakes do happen, but the overwhelming number of wrong decisions against us this season, as I've already said, cost us a significant number of points. 

But let’s keep things in perspective. There are 14 teams that finished below us who will be envious of our league position. There have been many good things happening on the pitch this season and many significant wins. We enjoyed 18 wins, our second-highest win record since we returned to the Championship. We do believe we have the nucleus of a team to break into the Play-Offs, but we know we need to improve both on and off the pitch to strive to achieve our goals. We know we have work to do over the summer.

This season we have seen great many improvements in all football related matters. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 20 points from our opening eight games is the best ever start to a league campaign.
  • We had the second-most wins this season – 18 since our promotion back to the Championship.
  • On Boxing Day 2023 we had our highest league attendance since the early 1970s of 21,816 at our 2-1 home win against Leeds United.
  • Season card sales of 11,963 were slightly below last season’s total of 12,075. However, due to the improved mix of sales, we achieved our highest ever season ticket sales income total.
  • The average home game attendance of 16,714 is a new recent high, improving on last season’s 16,269. This figure is even more pleasing considering we were without three significant local derbies from last season.
  • We featured in 13 televised games this season – the most in recent history.
  • We had a successful season in the PNE Academy too. Our Under 18s winning both their League and the Youth Alliance Cup.
  • Importantly, we had a number of our Academy players progress into the first team, with Kian Best, Noah Mawene, Josh Seary and Theo Mawene establishing themselves as a part of the matchday squad during the season. All four getting valuable game time as part of their development. An extra mention to Kian Best who was called up to the England U19 squad – so far winning five caps and scoring one goal for his country.

We wholeheartedly thank our fans for their support throughout the 2023/24 season. I believe they helped enormously in rallying the team to get back on track after our early dip in form.

As previously announced our pre-season plans are in place. We will be back in Campoamor, Spain from 6th-13th July. The past two pre-seasons there have been a success both in the training camp itself for the players and for those fans that have ventured there to enjoy a pre-season friendly. This year we have a friendly game already planned on Friday 12th July against Lincoln City. 

A full pre-season fixture schedule will be announced as soon as possible. 

To coincide with our pre-season training camp and to give fans the chance to get their new PNE kits for the summer, we are aiming to launch the 2024/25 season home kit later this month. This is on the back of record-breaking sales of Castore merchandise in the first year of our new agreement.

I am pleased to note that the pricing structure for our early bird discount offer for season card sales for 2024/25 appears to have been well received. As I am sure the fans will appreciate, we have tried to get a balance between creating an affordable, tempting offer but also knowing that we, as a club, do need to be driving our commercial income in order to try and compete with those recently relegated clubs with parachute payments.

At under £13 per game the early bird offer is incredible value for money. We sincerely hope more of you will take up the chance to come and support the team in the coming season.

As has been widely reported, after several years of false promises, the Premier League clubs refused to enter into any negotiations with EFL clubs over a new deal for the football pyramid. What isn’t widely reported is the fact the Premier League has increased by several millions the amount the relegated clubs receive (via the parachute payments), thus giving them an even greater advantage over the rest of the Championship than they already have. With the Premier League hugely increasing the parachute payments, we need you, our fans, more than ever to help us to compete. 

The summer transfer window will soon be open. We have long since identified our targets and work is well underway to secure them, but we do urge patience from our fans. No doubt many fans will speculate and fantasise about who will be coming in and who will be leaving the club. We cannot stop the speculation, it is a part of today’s football experience, but we do ask fans to appreciate that we will not comment on any rumours.

We, as ever, will try our best to do our transfer business early (it is not always possible) and we are excited about the squad improvements we have planned for next season.

Once again, I want to make special mention of our fans. The effort and endeavour put in to having the banners and flags at home games definitely had a positive effect on the players to help get us out of our Autumn slump in form.

As highlighted above, thanks to you all we have achieved our highest average home attendance since the 1960s. Alongside this, our away fans are something else. We’ve travelled to the far east of the country (Ipswich and Norwich), to the deep south (Plymouth and Southampton) and to Wales (Cardiff and Swansea) and you’ve never let us down – always getting right behind the lads and pushing us on no matter what the conditions. We really do appreciate all your support.

As I have said before, we know we do not get every single decision right. What club does? But I assure you we strive every day to improve. To improve the stadium facilities, to improve the hospitality, to improve the matchday experience, to improve the facilities and backroom support for the players, coaches, and management.

We continually strive to improve the squad, whether through improved focus on the Academy (and a route through to the first team) or through scouting potential new players. Our goal remains trying to gain promotion to the Premier League. We will continue to focus on this, but at no time will we do so in a way that risks the long-term future of the club or the unique PNE heritage and legacy.

We sincerely hope that we will see you all, and even more new fans, in the 2024/25 season.

Craig Hemmings

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