Ward reveals budget will be cut again

COLCHESTER United manager John Ward has revealed that his already minimal transfer budget is set to be cut even further on the eve of today’s announcement of season ticket prices for 2011/12.

The U’s host Exeter City at 1pm tomorrow afternoon just five days after the 10,000 capacity Weston Homes Community Stadium witnessed its lowest-ever crowd for a league game in the three seasons it has been open.

Just 2,892 watched the 1-0 win over Oldham on Tuesday night following Colchester’s slide away from the play-off places.

And with season ticket prices expected to be frozen, the club is hoping that fans stick with them and re-embrace the underdog tag they once thrived under as it takes a longer term view.

Whereas former managers Paul Lambert and Aidy Boothroyd were both expected to finish in the play-off places at the very least following heavy financial backing from chairman Robbie Cowling, Ward’s remit was to bring stability back to the club this season.

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That he has done by selling the likes of Clive Platt, David Fox, Marc Tierney and Paul Reid to name but a few and replacing them with a successful mix of non-league players, free transfers and loanees.

And with the football remaining at a similar level, the money saved is being redirected into important long-term projects such as a new training ground, improvements on the matchday experience at The Weston Homes Community Stadium and a junior academy at Thurstable School in Tiptree.

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“Robbie (Cowling) and I are going to continue looking at downsizing in terms of the finance side of it and I’m fine with that,” said Ward.

“Because we get on well together he discusses a lot of very confidential matters with me which helps me to understand the club’s situation very clearly.

“Quietly we have reduced the finances bit by bit and it will carry on like that. Players are going to have to accept that this football club is not the Championship club it was when Robbie first came in and money was thrown at it. It’s going to be very carefully run and quite rightly so in my opinion.”

Asked whether the transfer budget was likely to be further reduced for next season, Ward said: “Yes it is, but I don’t have a problem with that at all.

“I think people need a reality check. The man who runs this football club has put a lot of money into it over the last two or three years and it hasn’t progressed the way he would have liked so we have to be a bit more prudent now.

“The attendance on Tuesday night is not one that can sustain this football club.

“We’re in the top 10 out of 92 league clubs in terms of gaining points at home over the last two years and still our average gate is relatively lowish. There has to be, on the basis of that, a serious think about the future of this club.

“If we ignore that we will end up like other clubs who are not able to pay their players and staff or put on a sensible football club for people to come and watch.

“We can’t let that happen here.”

He added: “The long-run is now being looked at in a more serious vein than it was before, the short-term won’t get cut out – Robbie will still very much support the first team – but the longer term view is also being taken now.

“Not many managers get the challenge that has been put to me of helping build a football club.

“I hope I’m here in 16 months time and can see the first stages of these long-term projects coming through.

“I do recognise I have to get things right on a Saturday afternoon for that to happen though.”

– For today’s announcement on season ticket prices keep an eye on this website.

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