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DEAR JON - CCLSC CHAIRMAN JONATHAN STRANGE

Jon's most recent thoughts can be found in the newsletters.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2010 

A very Happy New Year to all CCLSC members everywhere, including our new Sky Blues International members from all over the world. 

The Sky Blues go into 2010 on a note of optimism: a three match winning sequence, an improving injury situation, and the promise of new signings in the transfer window. The air of increasing desperation at the beginning of December has given way, we hope, to lengthening days of consolidation and promise. 

CCLSC looks forward to a Q&A later in the season, and to the International Supporters' Day on Easter Saturday in conjunction with Sky Blues International. Further details will be announced shortly. 

Good luck, and let's all make it a wonderful year. 

Jonathan Strange, Chairman

NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2009

Happy New Year to everyone! It is amazing to think that the awful cold we experienced at Loftus Road on Saturday used to endure for weeks on end. And what an heroic performance it was to come away from QPR with a point after we had been reduced to ten men for so long.

The sending-off looked unfortunate. Wright had just jumped for a header. He was off-balance as he landed and, as a result, his foot was probably raised higher on Helguson than it could have been had he had time to compose himself better for the challenge. What should the ref have done' He was only a few feet away. How much did he allow effect to influence his assessment of intent' Helguson was certainly pole-axed and, as Chris Coleman says, that takes some doing with that player. We, naturally, think the ref should have exercised discretion. But, if he had, wouldn't QPR then be bleating about inconsistency if the ref later dismissed a Rangers player in a similar situation' And pandering to 'consistency' wins more brownie points with the assessor - and with everyone else for that matter - than encouraging the ref to adopt a sense of discretion.

Another point: Danny Fox initiates a 'conversation' with the linesman about his failure to give an off-side. The referee promptly books Fox for dissent, putting Fox back on the road to further suspension. Now, the officials - Messrs Stroud, Ganfield and Gosling - may or may not be incompetent, but word will have gone round refereeing circles that Coventry's defenders, their arms permanently thrust to the sky claiming off-side, are just about the biggest arm-wavers in the Championship. So, given such circumstances, does Fox think that the ref is going to give him more of the benefit of the doubt, or less'

 Talking of Fox, what a wonderful dead-ball specialist he is. Let's hope that we can use the transfer window, either this month or in the summer, to add further such talented players to the squad. If we are to swallow the official line we keep getting fed, City only ever invested in clapped-out elderly players until the present regime took over. Does that mean Jay Tabb, Leon Best, Robbie Simpson, Elliott Ward and Michael Mifsud'  And weren't Fox and Dann recommended by Dowie' And was Borrowdale, dare I say it, obviously such a poor prospect when we signed him, aged 21 and with 98 Premiership and Championship appearances already under his belt' Nobody's a guaranteed success. Don't be too sure that QPR have left leave of their senses in signing Borrowdale. Remember our astonishment when we got more for Craig Bellamy than we had paid for him.

The only difference in transfer policy between present and past regimes at Coventry is that it is no longer considered desirable to recruit highly-paid squad players and loanees. As we are now seeing, that's fine so long as you don't get injuries and suspensions.

 Another contentious point has been scrapping the Stiffs. Over the years, a lot of clubs have gone through a ditching the reserve team phase. In many such cases, the Reserves have soon been restored. But times have changed. Keeping fit and competitive these days depends on a more scientific process than running around a non-league ground in front of a tiny band of spectators. And if you need a game to test a trialist or an Academy boy, you can always fix up a friendly.

 The next few weeks will be crucial to the end-of-term report. A good Cup run in prospect; a top-half finish or more - there's plenty still to play for.

CHAIRMAN'S REPORT  AGM 2008

A very warm welcome to you all, and especially to those who have travelled such long distances.

There is little doubt about the most significant moment of Coventry City's season, and it came several months before that galling performance at The Valley. 'The clock is ticking,' Joe Elliott frequently reiterated, but the game he was referring to was over the very existence of the football club. Few of us will forget the emotional relief of hearing that the club's future had at long last been secured. No one fought harder or worked harder to bring all the factions and their vested interests together than Joe Elliott, and I texted him heartfelt congratulations on behalf of CCLSC.

All Coventry City supporters can be grateful to Ray Ranson and Sisu for securing the opportunity for a meaningful long-term vision for the football club, a vision founded on the coalescence of Coventry City and Arena Coventry Limited and of all the other parties involved.  

It is important to understand the motivations behind the involvement of Sisu in Coventry City and how it affects the club and, more indirectly, CCLSC. There is more to this than some fan or philanthropist stomping up a few million quid to buy the right kind of result on the field.  The gentlemen at Sisu are sympathetic but unsentimental in their desire to pursue a business plan that can turn the football club into a profitable business concern. 

CCLSC has already introduced itself to Ray Ranson at the end-of-season social. The personal involvement of his predecessors, especially Bryan Richardson, Mike McGinnity, Geoffrey Robinson and Joe Elliott, helped nurture a uniquely close relationship between the football club and CCLSC.  Of course, CCLSC has been a major customer down the years, with corporate and social events, match-ball sponsorships, and the many thousands of match tickets sold by Colin. The football club's support of CCLSC, therefore, is not just on account of us being a nice bunch of people who happen to travel a long way supporting the team.  

I point this out in order to emphasise the need for CCLSC to continue making its presence felt at the football club One or two members have misinterpreted CCLSC's policy over social events and it is worth pausing here to say a few words about it.  

For the first time in many years, we did not have a Q and A evening this season. I can tell you that both Ian Spriggs and Joe Elliott worked tirelessly to set one up, but with the takeover crisis and yet another managerial sacking, we were left with a guest list that simply made such an event unviable even at rearranged times. Joe Elliott assures us that every effort will be made to arrange a Q and A with us this autumn.  

CCLSC is keenly aware of the need to promote social events to suit the differing tastes and pockets of all its members, and Ian will continue to strive to do this. Let me put right, though, any lingering confusion over the Player of the Year presentation and the end-of-season social.  

We do not have the cosy situation at the Arena that we once enjoyed at Highfield Road. Coventry City Football Club does not own the ground in which it plays, and until just now has shared few of the profits. We have negotiated strenuously, since the move to the Arena, for ACL to enable members to attend a POY presentation on the pitch as at Highfield Road, and to allow us to have the use of a room afterwards for a social gathering and finger buffet. This has not been deemed possible by the authorities. The only way round this was to continue, as we had twice done at Highfield Road, to combine the POY presentation with an end-of-season social. For those unable or unwilling to commit themselves to the social, passes were issued to attend the presentation after the game. This has continued to be the case at the Arena.   

The only way, therefore, that we could continue to have a POY event at the Arena - beyond one or two people being allowed to make the actual presentation on the pitch before the game - was by combining it with an end of season social. ACL were quite simply not prepared to offer CCLSC a private room and to provide special catering arrangements in the way the football club had done at Highfield Road in the old days. 

Let me say that the end-of-season social/POY event this year was an outstanding success, despite the relatively small number of members in attendance. Ian Spriggs put an enormous amount of work into this and, as ever, we are extremely grateful to him. Barry Chattaway had successfully run the POY voting throughout the season and produced the splendid trophy which was presented to Jay Tabb. The player revealed himself as an outstanding ambassador for the football club. The presentation was well publicised in the programme and in the local press. The lunch, as I have already hinted, provided an excellent opportunity to re-assert our support for the club in the presence of the new chairman, and of Gary Hoffman and of Joe Elliott. 

Ian and I are in close contact with Joe Elliott. Ian is discussing ways in which we might promote a free social event, and I have been discussing an idea floated by Joe about the possibility of CCLSC becoming an active conduit for the football club with foreign supporters. I, myself, continue to voice the interests of long-distance supporters in my capacity as chairman of a working party on the reconstituted Joint Consultative Group.    

We are very fortunate to have two such good friends as Joe Elliott and Gary Hoffman on the club board, Gary being one of Jay's predecessors as CCLSC secretary. However, there are wider - less intimate - sympathies now involved at the Arena. This is not a criticism, merely to highlight the fact that there have been a lot of changes in personnel behind the scenes as well as the more direct involvement now in the football club of ACL. Recent months have seen the departure of Paul Fletcher, Ken Sharp and Mal Brannigan, the executive triumvirate appointed by Geoffrey Robinson. These three did much to improve the efficiency, productivity and working atmosphere at the club, but had been hampered by uncertainties surrounding the take-over. We wish Mark Davies, the Customer Relations Manager, well in his new appointment at Southend United. On a direct level with CCLSC, we were saddened by changes in the Ticket Office whose staff, Colin will tell you, have always been so helpful.  

One of the most regrettable losses at the club has been Raj Athwal, until recently Commercial Manager. Raj has worked beyond the call of duty over the years to enable CCLSC to maximise its social events at Highfield Road and the Arena. We will be very lucky if we can foster such a personable and happy relationship with anyone again in the future. In passing, I would like to put on record our gratitude to Raj and to wish him all the very best in his terrific new appointment at Watford. 

I would like to thank members of the committee for their all their efforts over the past year. I would also like to congratulate the Sky Blue Trust, to which we subscribe, for its efforts during the take-over crisis, and to thank Kevin Monks for his work with the CovSupport News Service. We are grateful that Kevin will continue to bring us the match reports we read with Rod's news updates.  

It has been an open secret that Colin Heys would be retiring from ticketing. For this, and so much more, all of us owe Colin an enormous debt. Colin Henderson proposes, and I second it, that Colin should be offered honorary life membership of CCLSC in recognition of his unique contribution to the club and its membership.  

I am relieved that Colin will continue to look after merchandising. In this connection, I fully commend the new scarf that Rich Woodfield has designed. Colin and CCLSC have been enthusiastic supporters of the Save the Academy appeal and Colin made sure that CCLSC sent a further contribution this season. CCLSC helped support the costs of Lionel Bird's book One Man's Vision, the profits from which have also gone to Save the Academy. 

No one has given more to Coventry City London Supporters' Club over the years than Colin, and I make no apology for high-jacking my own tribute to him in order to highlight one of his particular qualities. Colin has continued to be immediately recognisable to everyone in CCLSC, to the young and old, to newcomers and old-comers. He is his own man and he doesn't position himself with any particular group. His overpowering concern has been for the good of CCLSC. 

I must tell you that I am deeply concerned about CCLSC, and I fear that it is developing into a jig-saw of separate factions. Let me say: when you support a team which for so many years has failed to enthral or to prompt us into embracing one another, we are less likely to extend a hand to unfamiliar members. And if CCFC had a winning team, more people would want to join CCLSC and our problems would evaporate. All of this is perfectly clear.  

It is also true to say that the days when, as a matter of course, large numbers of members congregated on the concourse at Euston to travel together - meeting and chatting with those they knew well as well as those they knew not-so-well ' have become, despite the best efforts of Colin Henderson and others, largely a thing of the past.  Therefore, it is inevitable - and more noticeable - when one group goes into one room at the pub whilst the other goes into another. 

What am I suggesting ' that we all get lovey-dovey and buy drinks for people in the other room' No, I am making a different point: I think there is a danger that being a CCLSC member becomes a habit rather than an involvement. I am not suggesting that members should be campaigning on the doorsteps, or forming a CCLSC synchronised swimming team. But I am saying there is a certain apathy and that we need to participate more if CCLSC is to continue to have reason to survive. As I say, nothing would galvanise more interest than promotion or the play-offs and, yes, we are all busy people and, yes, a certain complacency is inevitable, but is it too much to expect more people to contribute'  

Let me change tack here for a moment. Recently, I received an e-mail from a member saying that CCLSC was no longer value-for-money. And, do you know, he is absolutely bloody right. What are we selling to members; what is the nature of the product' Do you know that it is much more expensive to belong to CCLSC than it is to most other comparable organisations' 

Peter Reynolds did some research and looked at twenty-nine other London supporters' clubs. Out of those twenty-nine, twenty-three have membership fees of less than ten pounds. I repeat: twenty-three have membership fees of less than ten pounds, whilst only one club has a higher membership fee than CCLSC. I am not usurping Charles' position or his expert advice about how we should be setting subscriptions for the coming year. I am saying, though, that we need to be very sure that we are offering value-for-money for what we are charging. And I am asking you, and I am asking all members, to come up with proposals, with ideas, over what we should be offering. 

One of my correspondent's points was that we should be publishing four jam-packed copies of the magazine a year. Rubbish! Do you know something, we shouldn't be publishing a magazine at all! Brian does a wonderful job, against all the odds, but he agrees with me that the magazine has outlived its purpose. Do you know how many of those twenty-nine other clubs publish a magazine' Let me tell you: None. What the vast majority do is to publish a monthly newsletter. This is what we should be doing ' not waiting for mostly non-existent contributors to fail to meet deadlines to provide fellow-members with their opinions about long-forgotten events which we have already seen and read about a hundred times. And so, I propose that the current magazine ' already overdue on account of the apathy and absence of contributors - should be the very last one. Instead, we should start to produce a regular electronic newsletter in the autumn which members would be able to download from the website. Hard copies would continue to be posted to those who required them. This would save nearly '900 a year and we could re-direct the savings that are generated. My view is that the new format could help provide a more positive and immediate contact with members, a contact which has become so sadly lacking. 

I shall be putting together other suggestions about how CCLSC operates and how it could or should develop, as well as about the need for accountability. I invite your thoughts and opinions.   

An organisation like CCLSC thrives on personal contact, and this has been one of the things that I and so many members have so valued about Colin, and that I have always esteemed about my predecessor, Rod. 

Before I close, I would like to note the recent award of MBE's to Mike McGinnity and Cyrille Regis. I texted our congratulations to Mike McGinnity. Cyrille, for his part, is one of many ex City players who have become a regular sight at the Arena, thanks very largely to the wonderful efforts of Jim Brown's Former Players Association. Jim has continued to contribute his Diary to the magazine, and I trust that he would continue to do so if there were a different format.  

What a stimulus it would be if more members emulated Jim's example in contributing to the magazine by making even an occasional contribution to the website.  

How many, I wonder, will trouble to look at the minutes or the accounts or read these humble words when they appear on the website. It is time to shed the badge of indifference, to honour our individual commitments and to start singing together. If we do not, Coventry City London Supporters' Club has no future. 

Thank you to every member, and let's look forward to a good season. 

Jonathan Strange 

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