Issue 14 Special: Peninsula Spot – Stoke Gabriel
As promised in Sport South Devon Issue 14, here are the full pre-season interviews with Stoke Gabriel FC Assistant Manager, Matt Zadel, and Chairman, Mike Calf.
Click here for Tom’s report on this season’s South Devon derby between Stoke Gabriel and Newton Abbot Spurs.
Interview by Tom Goble of Sport South Devon:
Tom Goble: The 2012/13 season proved an unexpected success for the Railwaymen as Matt Zadel explains:
“Last season, the first team really struggled for depth; we started the season with a really small squad; I think we only had about 13 players available for selection for the first games. I was reserve team manager at the time and found I was having to provide players for the first team.”
I wondered what it was about the squad that helped them achieve such a high league finish last season.
“The strongest thing about our side last season was our attacking. We are very free-attacking squad and you can see that the goals were very spread about the squad; I think Dave Worthington was our top scorer last season with 28 goals, but you’ve also got guys in the midfield like Mark Newbould and Jordan Hopkins scoring a few too. We were very lucky to get players in with such good natural attacking talent.”
When the interview took place, the new season was only a few weeks away. I asked if the club had improved over the summer.
“We’ve made some really good signings for the first team this summer and we‘ve not had any outgoing transfers either. Last season our biggest problem was (in) defence so we’ve signed Simon Lawton, Craig Fenner and Ryan O’Callahan who are all excellent players at this level. They should give us some real stability at the back. I think we’ve really strengthened.
“I think what we’re seeing is the new facilities here are attracting more and more players to the club; since the new clubhouse opened, we’ve seen more and more turning up for training. I think I can safely say that we’re one of the biggest amateur clubs in the South West: we run about 18 to 19 different teams now and have some of the best facilities in the region, along with Buckland Athletic.”
With the outlook for the future looking positive, I wondered how Matt thought Stoke Gabriel were different from the other clubs he’d worked with.
“This club has always had a good reputation; when I first came here I knew I was coming to a well structured club with a lot of history . I’ve been here for seven seasons and the club’s backroom and coaching structure has really improved. We’ve got a really good manager in Gary Fisher and everybody involved with the club has their coaching badges. We even have some people with professional experience too.”
My final question to Matt was his thoughts on the possibility of promotion this season.
“Well I don’t want to say anything I might regret but I think we are much stronger and better prepared than we were last season. I’ll hope for the best!”
Matt Zadel’s cautious optimism was mirrored by club chairman Mike Calf. I asked Mr Calf to explain his plans for the club’s expansion in the immediate future.
“The club isn’t landlocked like many other clubs are, so acquiring new land for any future expansion should be relatively easy. We’ve invested alot in expanding and improving the facilities, with the new clubhouse and a number of new pitches, and have got the planning permission for the pitch-side floodlights we need to play in the Peninsula Premier and the divisions beyond it.”
With these clear-cut targets in mind I wondered what his expectations of the first team and manager were?
“I don’t like to use the word “expectation”; I think it’s unfair on the staff and players and I don’t want people working under too much pressure. Last season I told the manager to try for mid-table and we greatly exceeded that by finishing second; this season we’d like the first team to try for promotion but it won’t be the end of the world if they don’t get it.”
“Everybody involved with this club does their work on a voluntary basis for the love of football and for the love of Stoke Gabriel Football Club.” – Mike Calf (Chairman)
I asked if the club met the necessary FA ground requirements to get promoted to the Peninsula Premier next season?
“Yes, our new club house is equipped to fifth tier specifications, meaning we can get promoted twice before we have to think about upgrading our facilities. But alongside our ambition comes the need to build ourselves a supportable future, particularly when you consider the global economic crisis. We know if we achieve promotion the costs of going to away games climbs steeply, as well as the day-to-day cost of running the club. Thankfully the extra revenue our new club house brings is providing us a sustainable future. I guess our main aim is to try to run the club in a realistic but positive way.”
I concluded the interview by asking Mike what Stoke Gabriel’s club ethos was and how the club fits in to the community it represents.
“I think Stoke Gabriel is a real community-focused club. We have a lot of support from the locals and we look to pay them back by maintaining an Open Door Policy and doing our best to make sure that the club and its facilities are accessible to everyone. We want to make sure that the football club does all it can to support people of all backgrounds and abilities. As well as our junior sides we also have a Ladies’ side and we’re looking into starting a side for people with disabilities too.
“Alongside the football side of things our clubhouse has a function room that can cater for 150 people and we’ve hosted everything from the community club to snooker nights. Our building is used as a tool to serve the community.
“I’d also say that the club is very well organised now; it’s taken quite a long time for us to get the right people in the right place but now our backroom structure is very streamlined. Everybody involved with this club does their work on a voluntary basis for the love of football and for the love of Stoke Gabriel Football Club.”
A special thanks from Tom and Sport South Devon goes to Julie Goodall, Mike Calf, Matt Zadel and Gary Fisher for giving us their time.