On the eve of his final match as Sporting Director of Wycombe Wanderers, Andrew Howard has penned an open letter to everyone associated with the football club:
With just a few days to go before I officially step down from the board of directors at Wycombe Wanderers, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank a number of people who have helped make it a privilege to serve as both chairman and sporting director.
Originally I was going to join in June 2014 as a director with a commercial role, thinking it can’t be more than a couple of hours a week! At the time the club was struggling on and off the pitch and quite quickly, via various consultations with different groups, and getting to grips with the accounts, I found myself taking over as chairman late that July.
It was a challenge I hugely enjoyed, and – to use the old analogy – together we began to move the club out of intensive care due to a combination of operational restructures and football fortune.
At the start of that 2014/15 season we knew we had a talented group of players very quickly, but one moment that stands out for me is one which demonstrated we had a real team. There was a match when one of our players was confronted by the opposition and in a heartbeat he had the support of his team-mates around him, even loanees who’d been with us for a short period of time. To me, that showed that these lads would give everything for each other and for their manager to achieve success, come what may.
Those values were only strengthened over the weeks, months and years that followed. Gareth came to me and said he wanted to take the team to the Somme to educate them about the sacrifices that footballers – just like these boys – had to make when they went to war 100 years ago. The club was on its knees and couldn’t afford to take the team there, so we all chipped in – players included – and embarked on what was a hugely poignant and special two days in France. That was the start of the ‘development days’ which have helped us shape the team’s culture and togetherness, which I have been proud to witness up close.
There have been so many highlights down the years – that day at Wembley stands out, and I know we ended up disappointed not to cap an incredible year with promotion (which we could not have afforded at the time), but it was a culmination of a year of one phenomenal team effort where we had come from a desperate position 12 months previously to a situation where the rest of the Football League had sat up, taken notice of what we’d all achieved and were impressed by the process that was underway.
Then there’s the FA Cup adventures against Aston Villa and Tottenham, and last season was a joy from the first kick to the very last.
For me, the real success has been the development of people around the place. I look at players like Alfie Mawson, who was close to quitting football before coming here, Ebere Eze, Scott Kashket, and older players like Adebayo Akinfenwa, Garry Thompson and Nathan Tyson. All of these lads had been written off prior to coming here, but by buying into the principles of how Wycombe Wanderers operates, they’ve played their part in helping to carry the club forward. I truly believe those principles will continue to enable this club to punch above its weight for a long time to come, whatever the future might bring.
I’m sad to be leaving, of course, though I won’t be far away, and I’m excited to be coming back to Adams Park as a fan and as a sponsor. Ultimately the business that Susie and I have built up deserves my full attention – I owe it to my family and to the staff to give Beechdean the best possible chance of future success as we undergo a period of significant growth.
All of us – directors, staff and players – are just custodians of the club and it’s our responsibility to pass it on in a better shape than we when we found it, in order for future generations to have a football club to be proud of.
Those closest to me during that time know my appreciation for the work they can do, so I won’t go into great detail, but I have great gratitude and admiration for everyone who’s worked alongside me on the board during that time – Trevor Stroud, Ivor Beeks, Mark Burrell and David Cook – as well as Brian Kane who has been a fantastic advisor throughout that time.
Gareth and his staff – Dobbo, Andy, Watesy, Cian, plus Baz when he was here, Kelly, and everyone else during this time – have been an absolute pleasure to work with, and everything they do from recruitment, player welfare, preparation for matches to team development has been first-class.
The office staff – with help from volunteers – do so much hard work that often goes unnoticed but is pivotal in the day-to-day running of the club, and they do a great job in putting on a show 25+ times each season when matchdays come around.
And the fans – the owners of the club – continue to amaze me with their dedication and passion for this football club. I had a disagreement with a supporter in a friendly right at the start of my involvement with the club, over the price of a bottle of Coke. It showed to me that he was frustrated with certain ways that the club operates, but cared enough to go to every game and support the team. Over time we have had to make some decisions which might have been unpopular at the time, but they’ve only been made with the best interests of the club and its future at heart. Before the final home game of that season, Gareth and the senior players invited that fan and his closest friends for a meeting to thank them for their backing and ask for one more monumental effort of support, whatever might happen in that game, and that’s exactly what they delivered, and have continued to do so.
Thank you to every fan who’s contributed to this club during my time here, and for the well wishes I’ve received. You have a fantastic club here – enjoy it, look after it, and thank you for having me.