Around 140 Accies fans (by my quick count) attended the Fans Forum at NDP following the disappointing loss to Cowdenbeath yesterday. The mood was positive, despite the result, and supportive towards the club.
The platform consisted of Allan Maitland and Les Gray, joined after the dressing room post mortem by Alex Neil and Frankie McAvoy.
Contrary to some expectations, the forum was not dominated by the issue of league restructuring. Les stated his intention to get it out of the way quickly, in order to concentrate on club matters, and it was covered within the first five minutes. Les stressed that Accies and the other signatories had not resigned from the SFL, and that they had not invited Rangers to join their group. Les explained that the proposals would have meant increased income to Accies in excess of £200,000, with all the benefits that would bring, but that failing to secure this extra income would not destabilise the club. There were no questions of note on this subject.
Les explained that we are one year into his three year plan aimed at taking the club back to the SPL, and he still sees that aim as achievable. One illustration of this is the club's wish to instal an artificial surface again, but this has been put to the SPL, and will not happen without their confirmation that it can be used in the SPL (or SPL1).
Season ticket prices for 2013/14 have not yet been set, but will be in the region of £200, closer to what other SFL1 clubs charge. The free tickets for children (up to age 12) of season ticket holders will continue. Pay-at-the-gate prices will continue to ensure it is advantageous to buy a season ticket, and will be at least the minimum level set by the league. Les noted that some fans have been telling him that reduced prices would lead to higher attendances, but the evidence of the past season is that, despite rock-bottom prices, attendances actually fell. He stressed the importance of bigger attendances to support our ambition to return to the SPL.
Alex Neil has not confirmed that he wants the job of manager on a permanent basis. The question was put to Alex directly, and he explained articulately that the mindset he has as a player (getting wound up in preparation for games) is not easily compatible with the more objective, and supportive of young players, approach required as manager. Alex wants to continue to play, has a year left on his playing contract, and expects to complete a full pre-season's training for the first time in four years. Alex and Les will meet to discuss the situation next week, but the vacancy will also be advertised, to see what sort of interest it attracts. Any appointee will have to concur with the Accies ethos of encouraging young talent, and working within our budget - Les confirmed there will be no "big name" appointment, such as Barry Ferguson or Paul Hartley.
Les explained that we will try to bring back Stevie May on loan next season, and discussions are imminent with all of our out-of-contract players.
There were also significant contributions from Allan Maitand, director of youth development, and Frankie McAvoy, director of the youth academy, re our continuing efforts to develop young players. There was regret that we had been unable to introduce two or three more to the first team from the bench yesterday, which had been the plan once we went two goals up - a plan derailed by Andy Ryan's sending-off, which ultimately cost us the game.
The floor was open and questions of all kinds were welcomed, but there was nothing of much substance, and certainly no hostile questioning. The club's fiercest critics were, as ever, absent or silent. Les emphasised that the club makes every effort to respond to every enquiry, letter or email (with the exception of the rash of correspondence last summer re the Rangers situation), but that it is difficult to answer every anonymous Internet-based complaint.
There was more. I left just before the end, and others who were there may wish to add to this report.