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New Barnstaple football chairman to build bridges with town

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

By Mark Jenkin

NEW IMAGE: Warren Crossley.

NEW IMAGE: Warren Crossley.

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CHANGING public perceptions and raising awareness are vital if Barnstaple Town are to thrive.

New chairman Warren Crossley is positive the crisis-hit club has a long-term future in the Toolstation Western League.

But he is well aware of the work that needs to be done.

At Mill Road on Tuesday, Crossley told the Journal about his plans to reinvigorate a club with more than 100 years of history.

He said: "I was speaking to a lad who has lived in Barnstaple for 21 years and I said, 'You need to get down to the next game'. He said, 'To be honest, I don't even know where the ground is'."

The town's apparent lack of interest in its football club is something Crossley hopes to put right.

After fears they may be forced to pull out of the league, he is already planning with cautious optimism for next season.

"For a town of this size, I'm struggling to understand how we can't make a go of it," he said.

"The message that needs to be relayed to the public is that we are OK.

"We will get through the season and we will be there next season but we are never going to compete and be where we should be without help from as many individuals and companies as possible."

As a young player, Crossley, now 43, represented his home town Harrogate during the 1980s.

Later he worked in scouting and youth development for Leeds United and believes bringing youngsters through is the way forward.

The longstanding problem of the best young players in Barnstaple not playing for Town is something he hopes to address.

"When you walk into the ground, it's a semi-professional set-up," said Crossley.

"The facilities and playing surface are second to none but the best local talent would rather go to Rock Park to play and that baffles me.

"If you are 18 and a good footballer from the town, you should be playing here.

"I don't know what has gone on in the past but we need to build bridges.

"I don't see the future being us having players from Exeter or Plymouth."

The immediate future concerns staying in the premier division where Barnstaple are three points adrift at the bottom.

Manager Dave Griffiths has been working to improve the squad and find stability after a season of chopping and changing.

"We realise we have got to bring in three or four players," said Crossley.

"There are ongoing discussions with Dave Griffiths and various players in the area.

"We are backing him to bring in some experienced players.

"I'm hoping by the new year we'll have a much better squad.

"We have used 33 players already this season and you can't go on like that.

"Pinching players from here and there, no disrespect but it's almost like you're running a pub team.

"When players get offered a fiver more to go and play somewhere else, I can't get my head around that. That mentality has got to change."

Despite concerns of a cash-flow crisis raised at the recent emergency meeting, Crossley is happy the club is on a sound financial footing.

Last month, Barnstaple received a large bill from South West Water who have since identified a leak at the ground.

Crossley is optimistic the club will only have to pay their usual amount of £300 per quarter rather than the £2,500 demanded.

To enter the FA Cup next season, Barnstaple must build steps and railings by the grass bank near the changing rooms.

It is estimated the work will cost £5,000 and the chairman has applied for grants through the FA.

Within the next few weeks, the club website will be relaunched after not being updated for months.

Crossley will work with Lorna Childs, the new commercial manager, to increase income.

"The main way the club is going to raise money is through the clubhouse," he said.

"I think there's massive potential there.

"The facilities are for hire for wedding receptions, birthday parties, aerobics classes and clubs."

The public meeting planned to take place at Mill Road on Thursday, November 15 will still go ahead.

"It will give me the opportunity to meet people and for people to get to know me and ask any questions," said Crossley who is the South West commercial manager for a national tiling company and moved to Barnstaple in the spring.

He is encouraging potential sponsors or club volunteers to get in touch.To find out more, call him on 01271 411411 or 07943 105227.

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  • Ex_BTFC  |  November 12 2012, 12:25PM

    I'm happy to be corrected on this. It is two years since I was involved in the youth set up but I can't believe that this situation has been allowed to happen. Yet another short-sighted decision from a club with a history of terrible decisions both on and off the pitch. Mr Crossley's job is maybe more difficult than initially anticipated...

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  • Barumboy  |  November 12 2012, 10:21AM

    Barnstaple Town FC does not have a current youth set up. Barnstaple Youth Football Club broke away from the senior club several years ago due to the lack of support received from Mill Road. It is a shame because Barnstaple Youth FC are and have been the most successful youth football club in North Devon for numerous years and have produced many very good players that could quite easily play in the Western League. BUT they have always been overlooked for players not even local to the area! Barnstaple Youth FC therefore set up their own men's team playing in the North Devon League (Barnstaple FC) and now have two very successful teams plus a women's team and a disability team. The youth are the future and they should never have been overlooked at senior level - get the youth involved and you will get locals back supporting the club. We currently have more spectators at youth matches at Tews Lane then attend Western League matches at Mill Road! A first priority for Mr Cossley should be arranging a meeting with the committee of Barnstaple Youth FC regarding creating a closer working relationship as we had in the past.

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  • Ex_BTFC  |  November 09 2012, 8:31PM

    For 25 years Barnstaple Town Football Club has shown local talent a complete lack of respect and for that reason has a very poor reputation, one which it will struggle to shake off. During the mid 90's I was proud to represent my Town in a very successful reserve team full of lads from the Barnstaple area. I was personally never really good enough to step up to the next level but I was surrounded by teammates, some of who had, and still have an immense amount of ability. At that time, the relatively successful first team also consisted of at least five local players, some of whom went on to achieve great things together at the likes of Taunton and Bideford. Why they left Barnstaple Town to do so speaks volumes. However, when the first team were short of numbers during mid week, rather than look to the up and coming talent in the reserves they would recruit ex-Plymouth Argyle YTS or Tiverton Town rejects as they came with a 'reputation'. Sadly, that reputation never matched their actual ability or apparent want to represent the club and most would argue that they were lesser players than those in the reserve team. Notwithstanding this, they were also paid handsomely, in hindsight well beyond the financial means of the club. One by one, those with unappreciated potential, willing to play for a darn sight less, maybe even for free, left the club to sign for either other Western League clubs or chose to play in the North Devon League. This continued for some time until the reserve team was left completely demotivated, bereft of those wanting to represent the town and cascading down the Devon & Exeter leagues. What should be the life blood of a club like Barnstaple Town is sadly no more. Ultimately, this is one of the main reasons why the club finds itself in this desperately precarious position. The excuse that players don't want to travel to the far corners of the south west is a lazy myth. The fact is, they don't want to share a changing room with a bunch of mercenaries from Torquay or Exeter who they cannot relate to or those who have no desire to represent the club with any kind of passion or effort. Had the team consisted completely of local talent, one with established friendships, they would have attracted their friends, and so on. That's how it works. At least that's how it has at any club I've been involved in. But there are some positives. Barnstaple Town does have a good youth set up which, having been involved in myself for six years is clearly far too detached from the main club. There are some excellent young players with great potential who have generally been well developed, learning to play the game the right way whilst conducting themselves in a disciplined and respectful manner. With investment in time and people, the future is certainly bright, as long as lessons from the past are learned. Mr Crossley is correct about one thing. The facilities are first class for this level and success on and off the pitch could see them developed even further. I believe they were financed by the previous Chairman who invested a great deal of his own personal time and money to see built. Sadly, his generosity and ultimately patience understandably and inevitably wore thin. It is such a shame that his endeavours went apparently unrecognised and unappreciated throughout the club and the town. The clubhouse is also much improved from the one I knew all those years back. I have my own opinions of how to begin to rectify this situation from a playing perspective but I cannot speak for others so they will remain private. I could expand even further on my own experiences but sadly there are only 4000 characters available to write! I do genuinely wish Mr Crossley all the best in his attempts to reinvigorate the club's fortunes. Lord knows it's going to be an extremely tough project. At least someone is willing to step up and save the club, I guess.

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