"Unity and Opportunity"
Welcome to our televised league game against Bolton Wanderers. They are a club with a rich tradition and it is a pleasure to welcome their fans, players and officials.
It should be a highly competitive game, with Wanderers looking to cement their position in the automatic promotion places whilst we look to maintain our outside chances of reaching the play offs.
I have chosen tonight's theme as unity because, in the fast-moving world of football, there is often the inclination to interpret change as something more than the normal rhythm of a club.
Over recent weeks, I have talked to a number of fans as part of my desire to continue to improve communication – and minimise inaccurate rumour which often takes on the appearance of fact – and I will follow up these notes with a Facebook phone-in with Michael on Thursday evening where fans can ask any questions they wish about the club.
The phone-in will take place at the club shop at 6pm so come on down, meet Michael and a few players and ask questions live!
The fact that Michael and I are happy to do such a programme together should indicate the strength of our relationship and our combined desire to do our very best for the club.
Unity really is our watchword - we win together and we lose together. I have commented before that unity is fragile but is the absolute foundation of every successful enterprise I have been involved with, none more so than football.
I accept football is a game of opinions but this should mean that sticking to the facts is all the more important!
From my perspective, the salient facts are as follows:
* the last two years have seen the club make good progress - two Wembley appearances, promotion, giant killings and establishing ourselves, as a minimum, as a top half League 1 team;
* we have a camaraderie and unity of purpose from players, football staff, Michael, myself and the board which is very special when set in the context of football and, when this is combined with the power of our fans as well, it makes the dream of further progress more tangible and the journey even more worthwhile;
* we have an outstanding Manager and we have significantly invested in the squad. Our playing budget has been increased this season and is competitive in League 1. Maintaining this is sacrosanct and I expect it to be increased next season;
I hope this lays to rest any speculation that there is any risk to the playing budget.
* our aspiration is promotion to the Championship. This is why Michael Appleton and his team are so central to our ambition for the club;
* off the field, the commercial opportunity is limited by the lack of ownership of the stadium, but we have made huge strides in the past three years in increasing commercial revenue, especially long-term sponsors. This will be further assisted by Peter Lee taking over de facto head of retail and commercial. His entrepreneurial zeal will benefit all;
* we have professionalised our operations and financial control and the appointment of Benn Brown as Finance and Operations Director will continue this process;
* the Trust has been transformed and will make an increasing contribution to local communities. We have ambitious plans under the leadership of Kate Longworth, including developing the Advance education model across the county;
* the relationship with OxVox is open, honest and friendly. We have agreed that only OxVox will comment on the stadium while the discussions with Firoka and the Council are continuing. On all other matters, it is business as usual. There are natural areas of debate and differences of perspective but we are completely aligned in seeking to do the best for the club;
* we are close to signing the contract with Oxford City and the Council to jointly operate the stadium at Court Place Farm. This will hopefully include a new 4G pitch, a new home for Oxford Women FC and, in time, a permanent base for our first team.
With a small staff of people in a complex, fast-moving operation, I believe we are a well-run club with much to be optimistic about.
On this theme, I would like to thank all staff for their massive over-and-above contribution in dealing with Wembley as well as their day-to-day duties. It is a real team effort and it is truly appreciated.
Last week, Greig announced his decision to stand down. Over 18 months I got to know Greig as a colleague and friend. He is a committed, principled individual with OUFC running through his veins. I would like to formally thank him for his stewardship over the past 12 months and wish him well for the future. I am delighted that he is remaining as a Trustee and as an Associate Director.
Turning back to on the pitch, last Saturday's win epitomised the esprit de corps across the squad and maintains our position in the outside edge of the play-off places.
This is immense progress over two years by any measure - not to mention a second Wembley appearance.
I read a great piece recently on worry and stress where an old man, on his death bed, was heard to remark, "I have had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened!"
Let's look to the future with confidence - we have a great club, an outstanding manager, a highly talented squad, amazing supporters and we are well positioned in the league and have a Wembley appearance to come - Carpe Diem!
Best wishes and COYY!