In our final pre-season chat, tauntontown.com spoke to Chairman Kevin Sturmey.
When Kevin Sturmey joined the Taunton Town Board in the summer of 2010, the club were in the doldrums; struggling in the League on a poor pitch with decreasing attendances and the backdrop of some major debt. The transformation over those seven years has been remarkable, prompting the Chairman to comment:” I can honestly say the club is in the best position it has ever been in the seven years since I’ve been on board, both on and off the pitch. Leigh and the management team have recruited very well in the summer and I am really looking forward to the season. On the playing side I believe we are stronger than this time last year but that does not guarantee any success as from game one I'm sure every club wants to do well and winning consistently in sport is very hard. However, I have total confidence in the management and playing squad and feel we have as good a chance as any other club to be competing at the top of the league.“ Sturmey is also positive about developments off the pitch as he added:” We continue to build a structure which is a sustainable business and we now have no external debt which is an incredible achievement from where we were seven years ago. We have three areas of the business, namely football, venue and general which allows us to focus on each area separately as football, unless you are incredibly lucky, will never fund itself on an annual basis. We are also adding more new people at Board level and below but as we grow we will always need even more volunteers as we will never be able to function without the goodwill of individuals who give up their own time for the love of their club.”
The 2016-17 season will go down as one of the most memorable in the Peacocks’ history and Kevin would obviously like more of the same in the upcoming campaign. “I want us to win the League, reach the 2nd round proper of the FA Cup and win the FA Trophy so no pressure Leigh!! Seriously, of course I want us to be competing at the top of the league, having been the most consistent team I guess over the last three seasons. Cup runs are great due to the media exposure and finances it can provide but there are about 200 clubs at Step 4 alone who have the same dream as me. It has to be a dream because we all have to remember we have part time players who all work full time, do their gym work and also find time somehow to play football at a very good level. The commitment and sacrifices made last season show what can be achieved but we always have to remember rest and recuperation is as important as training. If you asked the top players to play football after working all day most would not be able to cope so semi-pro footballers in my opinion are the hardest working players in this country. Last year our squad got some recognition nationally which was fully deserved as everyone loves an underdog and their achievements will go down in history as the best ever, so far! I'm greedy for success and personally I will never be satisfied until I feel we have reached the levels I know we can.”
Attendances at the Viridor Stadium have been steadily rising over the past few years as the club have competed at the top end of the league plus the FA Cup success of last season. Sturmey believes interest in the town is definitely on the up, remarking:”The FA Cup run added to our fan base and the number of goals last season highlighted the quality of football we played. At the end of the day, even at our level, we are in the entertainment business and people walking out of the Viridor Stadium excited about what they saw sells it further in to the community. I have never seen so many people wearing claret and blue and Tony Pryce Sports, our retail Partner, sold out of stock on several occasions last season. A personal aim for me is to see more people wearing a Taunton Town shirt than Premier League teams which they may also support as their second team! One thing that will stay with me forever was looking back to the home end from the Barrow end in the FA Cup match to see a packed terrace with a wide range of people loving every minute of the build up to such a great day and I would love to see that more often. We have increased crowd averages each season and in pre-season to have over 2200 people at the Viridor already is a massive achievement.”
The Chairman also enthused about the introduction of the youth development programme. “Starting the JPL teams under the guidance of Paul West and current player Ben Palmer at U12, U13 and U15 level and partnering with Bridgwater and Taunton College will enhance our stature in the community and already the excitement shown at the registration evenings shows the potential in the town which sadly was dormant for too many years. Winning is a big factor at 1st team level as winning consistently increases awareness but at JPL level it will be all about development through to College and University level football and hopefully a pathway to Taunton Town 1st team. Sponsorship also continues to grow with large and small companies and I am already working on season 2018-19 in certain areas as we have agreements in place that companies are very keen to renew. Some companies also wish to invest more in to the club because the Taunton Town brand is now seen as a great place to advertise due to the growth we have seen in all areas.”
Looking at the long-term picture, Sturmey will never rest on his laurels as he strives to push the club forward.” We are now seen as a leader in non-league football “, he observed, “often being asked for advice as we have built a sustainable business through adversity and whatever level we reach we will be able to sustain it by not over stretching ourselves. I have always wanted people to respect the work a handful of people do to keep the club moving forward and want people to look forward to their visit to the Viridor Stadium. We treat everyone with respect and expect standards of behaviour to reflect that on and off the pitch as I think our fans in general are some of the most gracious in victory and defeat (usually!) and will always applaud teams off the pitch, win or lose. I want everyone who visits to feel comfortable and one of my aims is to see more families attend matches as we are still very male dominated although it is improving. If we can add more ladies to the number of Under 14's who are now coming it will create a great atmosphere which showed when we hosted three Yeovil Ladies games earlier this year. The JPL squads will also add more families with two more teams starting at U14 and U16 next season.”
He concluded by summarising his ambitions for the club. “Personally I ultimately want us to achieve promotions to the level I know is achievable, develop the stadium over the next 5 - 10 years (we are currently compiling a vision document and also an audio visual of how the Stadium could look) and build something unique - "a football club that is sustainable based on not spending money you haven't got on unsustainable budgets". All this can be achieved if you build something the community and local Council wants to support. Somerset CCC has been a flagship for the town but it is a county club surrounded by Minor Counties so we need to show the Taunton and surrounding public we are serious about going higher but to do that we will need their support to grow each year and to be seen as a valuable community asset.”