Ralph answered questions for a good hour and a quarter which turned out to be about an hour an a half by the time he had left the room. It is not always easy to have questions being fired at you for that length of time, but Ralph is an excellent speaker and PR man and held the audience of 30 throughout. On arrival he greeted each person with a handshake.
• Ralph was asked about the sacking of Maurico Pellegrino. He said every time they considered sacking MP, results improved. Mauricio was a hugely likeable guy and accepted that Ralph ‘had to do what he had to do’ (in sacking him).
• Referring to Claude Puel, the club thought that Claude could not take them forward any further.
• A question regarding the plans and ambitions of the new Chinese owner was not really answered. Ralph said he recognised the need to grow in China as well as in India and the USA. His daughter is taking more of an interest and attends games when she can. As far as investment goes this was unclear at this moment in time.
• The Board clearly share our concerns over this season, but feel they have built a solid financial model and management team to ensure we will survive in the worst case scenario if relegation happens. When asked if the club was in danger of Administration again, Ralph answered ‘No’
• On the Virgil van Dijk saga, I had the impression that SFC wanted to appear strong, but it was a mistake to keep players that did not want to be at the club.
• The club was in some financial difficulty a few years ago,but has stabilised. The payments from the Premier League are in tranches so that loans that appear in the accounts are effectively to smooth cash flow.
• The semi-final ticket prices for the upcoming game with Chelsea are all down to the FA.
• A request was made for more notice to be given to supporters as regards pre season games. For next season, China was mentioned, but more likely to be Austria and Switzerland.
• Another question focused on whether the youth talent had dried up. Ralph agreed that there was a problem (‘over-stocked our rooster’) and that the club had reviewed it’s scouting policy, including the acquisition of 16-17 year olds from other clubs – domestic and overseas. Some kids are training under the club name in the USA.
• There is a Board of 7 with 20 senior managers actually running the club which RK oversees.
• A question was asked on how well the Board get on with other clubs boards. Ralph replied ‘very well’ especially as in Canada they sit in opposite parts of the arena.
• A plea was made to drop the pre match ‘My Way’. This prompted a long tale of how entertaining Shane Long is when singing.
• Discussion was had that winning the FA Cup is an important sense of joy and pride for supporters. Ralph said that the FA Cup is high priority and acknowledged that supporters had been let down with weakened teams such as in our Europa League ventures.
It was felt that this was a highly entertaining visit from Ralph with openness and honesty. He said at the end that next time he could bring somebody with him for questions to do with team management and players.
It was a fast and furious evening and the London Saints can take no responsibility for any misinterpretations of what was said.