Fleet vice chairman Peter Varney gave this exclusive interview to Charles Webster at the club’s civic reception with Gravesham Borough Council last week following a busy summer of activity on and off the pitch at Stonebridge Road.
Below is a transcript of much of that interview which can be heard in full via the link at the bottom of this page.
On the local council
When I first arrived at the club, even the people from the council in this room would say that the relationship was not great, there was almost like a standoff. Over the last four years, we’ve developed a close working relationship, we’ve had a planning consent for the whole stadium, the council has sold us back the stadium which is critical and they’ve been nothing but supportive. All of the senior people at the club know all of the senior people at the council and I think that bodes well for the future. It’s so important that the people who can steer your future in terms of the stadium and all sorts of other practical support, that that relationship is solid and as good as it’s ever been.
I go back to the night of the planning hearing when they considered the hotel and the recommendation from the floor was perhaps that we should take certain things away [before granting the application]. And one of the councillors went, no, we need to support this club tonight. And that was a unanimous show of hands.
On achieving promotion
Obviously fans always look at the team, could it have gone up against Maidstone, which was particularly cruel. Probably on the day against Dover we didn’t play that well.
But I think last year, ending the season 23 games unbeaten, 20 of those wins, and developing a pattern of football that was attractive, you can’t con the fans at the end of the day and if you look at the [attendance] numbers from when we came four years ago to the numbers now, they’re stunning in terms of the finish to the season particularly. Season tickets this summer have doubled, you can’t get any commercial space in the ground. Sponsorship’s all sold out, people attach themselves to things that are successful, yes, but I think for the average punter that goes to watch a football team they know whether or not they’ve got players that are playing well.
On the squad acquisitions
When you step up a level the squad has to improve as well. It’s very easy to go, these players did well for us last year, so we just carry on but it needed strengthening and by God it’s been strengthened in the last few weeks! It certainly looks an exciting squad, two players in every position, a nice balance. And perhaps different to when we first came, I would say now that almost any of the 24 we’ve got there could start. Added to that the fact we now train Friday, we’re full time, we’ve got fantastic training facilities at Kings Hill and the ground’s starting to develop, which attracts people because of better facilities, this is not a bad time to be an Ebbsfleet fan.
On the ownership model
There’s a lot of exaggeration about the wages because it suits as a motivational factor. We run it in the right way, in a legal and professional way. Where the money has gone in big time, is in terms of the renovation of the pitch, the renovation of the stadium, the buying of the stadium, the £5m on the new stand.
The commitment from the owner is total. When Daryl and I went out to see him, his whole office is bedecked in Ebbsfleet material, the shirt on the wall, and everything else on the desk! For a guy of 31 to have bought into the club in this way, and I think you saw it yourself the emotion that he had at the final because of the reaction of the fans, he’s just been a complete gem for a football club like this. He’s turned something that the day we walked in everyone told me was dying, to what we’ve celebrated here and this is probably the start of a journey.
On National League prospects
When you come up you have to say that in the first season, the worst thing that could happen to you having worked so hard is to lose that status. I know it’s cliched, but your first priority is we must stay there. We must continue to develop this club and Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that type of thing. But having invested as we have and in some real quality signings, to add to what was already a good squad, of course we’re thinking if we get off to the right start – and it is about momentum – then you’ve got a chance as much as anyone. The spirit in the club, amongst the players is fantastic. They are very, very close knit and that is as important almost as having two better players in the squad. Lincoln had that spirit last year. But you’re not going to go out there and go, oh we’re coming into this to win it. We’re coming in there to make sure the progress is sustained and if we can get off to a good start, then who knows?
Hear the full interview below.