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APRIL 1996
29th April 1996
featuring Wycombe Wanderers
Manager Alan Smith
Smith and 'friends' at The ForumWycombe Manager Alan Smith stood before his critics at a well attended Independent Supporters Club Forum held at the Trades & Social Club on Monday 29th April 1996. An expectant crowd of over 300 saw Smith take centre stage flanked by first teamers Steve Brown, Terry Evans, Mickey Bell and Dave Carroll.


It was an evening where frustrations were bound to be aired and Smith was under no illusion of the task in hand. He began the evening by stating "Professional Football at this level is much more difficult than playing in the Conference" and went on to comment on remarks made in the previous Saturday's programme by Alan Parry that "this is our worst season in the Football League". Smith, clearly upset by the remarks added "What would you rather do, finish 10th in Division 2 or 4th in Division 3? I know where I'd rather finish". It's difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why Smith has lost the respect of many Wycombe fans but he clearly knows something is not right. He commented "I do understand there is an undercurrent, it has come across strongly..and each week it has come across a little stronger. Some of the criticism we've had this year has come from almost jealousy and comparisons between Martin O'Neill and myself. I have nothing against him - I respect what he's done, but I have to say we're different personalities" Smith went on to answer a wide range of questions from supporters during a debate that lasted almost 2 and a half hours. The very delicate subject of the Paul Hyde situation was obviously discussed and involved a heated debate that was thankfully controlled by WWISC Chairman Bob Officer.
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Alan Smith emphasised his present position at the Club by stating "The first thing I've got to do as a manager is establish a policy and a philosophy. At this Football Club we're at a crossroads. We've now been three years in the Football League. Outside this Football Club we have incredible respect from our counterparts and inside this Football Club we seem to shoot each other in the foot, try and bring each other down, have divides where no divides should be and I've got to say some of the criticisms that I've had have been from people who should know better and have actually worked fairly closely to me and unless I do something about it I'm going to have a bigger problem."
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Asked if the Manager would take responsibility for performances of the team whether good or bad, Smith stated that "I found it unacceptable when we went to Hull..the preparation was right...I did disown myself of it." He went on to add however, "The level of fitness at this Football Club is nowhere near the standard that I'd expect from a professional Football Club" On the defensive he also remarked that he "didn't milk the wins". Terry Evans, also commenting on the Hull game, added "I think we actually turned up there thinking they were going to be a soft touch and the time I've been in the game it's a bad attitude to take." A suggestion came from the floor that Smith had criticised the previous manager He also stated that most of the football played during the season had been "pretty turgid" and also pointed out that people were staying away because "It hasn't been worth the money". It would be fair to say that this is certainly the opinion of many Wycombe supporters and one which Smith was keen to put straight. Again he emphasised strongly "I have no criticism of the previous management or manager and I take my hat-off to what he achieved for this Football Club." Terry Evans explained the different management styles of Alan Smith and Martin O'Neill. "..with Alan it's during the week with tactics, set pieces and things like that. We didn't do a set piece with Martin. Martin would just pump us up quarter an hour before the game." Smith observed "Let's face facts.. the truth of it was you went six games without scoring a goal last year, you lost to Plymouth when they got relegated. I used to watch Steve Brown play last year..and there were these people booing. I couldn't understand that. So don't tell me all the time about what you thought you perceived". Smith pointed out that the situation was not unique to Wycombe and reminded the floor that both Carlisle and Brighton had been relegated.
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The question was put to Smith of where he thought Wycombe would finish in the League in 1995/96. In answering, the Manager stated "I wanted us to go up..I genuinely felt that when we went into the six final games, if we went to Hull and won - we would do it. I've got to say I was as disappointed then as when we lost the FA Cup Semi-Final last year to Man U." He went on to describe why he had released Glyn Creaser, who Smith said was "a top quality player...but in my opinion..he was just too old and I needed to get somebody else in." A similar scenario with Steve Thompson was revealed. Smith saying "I could see exactly his passion for Wycombe Wanderers, but I felt he needed that change".
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The strongest line of the evening from Smith and the players was the lack of unity in the Club. Smith said "What I will not put up with at this Football Club is the innuendos and the snidey remarks which are not even factual" He went on to make further reference to the previous Saturday's programme notes by Alan Parry, stating "I open up my programme on Saturday and see remarks that shouldn't even be in a football programme. I defy any football club in the League to have things like that in their programme." Later in the evening he went on to say that "Unless we get this Club under one roof there is a problem."
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Commenting on the atmosphere at home games, Terry Evans said "I think that's what got us out of Division 3, the togetherness and the atmosphere. It's been a bit different this season - I think that's all around. I think everywhere we should pull together. There are too many cliques..People having a 'pop' at new players, you've got to give players time to bed in. I had a rough time when I had the first couple of games...'Brownies' been pulled up early about it. We've all got to pull together and that's the right way to go". Steve Brown added "For the fans to be actually singing and cheering the lads just gives us a lift...There have been times when Hull have brought about 30 fans and they've made more noise than the 4,000 Wycombe fans."
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The inevitable subject of Paul Hyde was raised from the floor, asking for the situation to be cleared up bearing in mind that "he was liked so much by so many people and he seemed to just disappear and nobody seems to know why." It is a subject that has been highly emotive with Wycombe fans during the 1995/96 season. Smith, however, had come well prepared, he offered supporters the chance to view transfer requests, held up a contract and explained the situation from his point of view. Smith claimed that all the players were told that contracts would not be discussed until March. Apparently, with ten players contracts' expiring on 1st June 1996, Paul Hyde chose to approach the Manager in October and the resulting dispute ended with Hyde on the transfer list. Smith commented "I did say to him, if you do put in a transfer request I will not play you in the First Team, I did not think that was right". With certain elements of the floor disputing these points, Smith added "I have nothing personally against anybody at this Football Club". A suggestion from the floor claimed that the players may be frightened of criticising the Manager. This was answered with conviction by the Manager "Do not tell me that my players are frightened of me. I have good relationships. Don't treat them with disrespect - they're not people who just come and I pay their wages and go along with what I'm saying - they're not stupid". This area of discussion was closed when a statement by Smith said "I would have lost a lot of respect if I allowed that situation to go on" and justified his actions by concluding "I can't have one person stepping out of line. If people are as good as they think they are, they go on and go somewhere else and they make it. I didn't receive one offer for Paul Hyde for a reason I don't know. It wasn't what I wanted and it wasn't the way I wish it had gone."
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With the exception of Hyde, Smith wouldn't be drawn on the subject of individual players. When quizzed about the departure of Simon Garner and Terry Howard he stated that "those are good professionals". He added "Garner sets the standard that very few people set in this Football Club. I took the view at a certain stage to look for next season and try and mould a side that might be a little younger. My main priority is we have some very good players here and my first thing is to make sure those players are looked after. At the moment the pay structure at this Football Club is totally wrong."
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A show of hands was asked for prior to the debate of "How many people here are happy with the new kit and will buy?" With not one arm being raised from the 300 plus in attendance, the Manager was later asked his opinion and responded by stating "I found that when I cane to this Football Club that the training kit and a lot of our kit was unacceptable" He added that "We also found that playing under the lights, the kit did not show up well and that is not an excuse for passing to the opposition". On the subject of the change of manufacturer from Vandanel to Mizuno he pointed out that "We had the chance for Mizuno, they sponsor top golfers and tennis players. They said they would sponsor our under 10's, 11's 12's, so everybody would have the same kit. What Mizuno did say, that if they sponsored us they wanted some say in the design of it." It is the design, however, that is clearly the major factor in preventing the kit from being accepted by the fans. Steve Brown seemed to grasp the point when he stated "The problem with the old kit is not actually the colours but the quality of what it's actually made out of". Smith was reminded strongly from the floor that "The quarters ARE Wycombe Wanderers" and the comment was made "I think you'll find that next season when the sales go down we'll be here in twelve months times celebrating the return of the quarters...if you start playing with the traditions of football, you start upsetting supporters off the've got to get it right on and off the pitch." Smith did not gain much backing when he suggested "If Nick Faldo is prepared to wear Mizuno, I don't think it will be too bad for me" But he did gain applause when he stressed that "Mizuno will sponsor us for a lot of money. If you want Dave Carroll.. Steve Brown..Mickey Bell.. Terry Evans at the Club, the unfortunate thing is you've got to do it by every form of sponsorship possible."
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In leaving the subject of replica kits Smith added "I agree that football kits have been a rip-off. At this Football Club I don't think anybody is ripped off..we haven't got players earning enormous amounts of money. A lot of the money we do earn is ploughed back into it. Having said that I do rather agree with the whole point of this organisation. When things do get out of line, you can actually put them in check and say I'll do something about it. Don't be anti-everything..everything is done with Wycombe Wanderers in mind."
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The evening was concluded by a question asking "How far do you think we are off being a Division 1 club off the pitch?" Smith again re-emphasised the lack of unity and remarked "There are one or two things that are not right at this Football Club". He went on to stress the importance of the new stand "without that stand Wycombe would not survive in Division 1 and it needs a more professional approach off the field. It is still slightly amateurish in many respects. I don't think we're that far away. I would rather be the Manager of Wycombe Wanderers than Luton." He finished this point by stating "The biggest problem at this Football Club is information.. Even if I'm criticised for what I've done or what I may do, at least I've said my bit. I think a little more information all round would go a long way."
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Smith and his colleagues received warm applause at the end with Dave Carroll picking up the WWISC Player of the Season award. The organisation of the evening was a credit to Wycombe Wanderers Independent Supporters Club who allowed the evening to take a natural flow without ever being obtrusive. The Football Club should take note of the success of this venture, attended by over 300 dedicated Wycombe Wanderers supporters, they can only help break down the barriers between Club officials and the fans and stop rumours and bad feelings building up as they have done this season.
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This article first appeared in the Summer 1996 issue of the Wanderer
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