Chairman's Chat with Mark Coote
STEVE HOLE sits down for a five-minute chat with the big boss man, Leafe chairman, Mark Coote for a pre-season chat.
So, Mark, with the new season rapidly approaching do you still get the same buzz before each one?
I do, it’s the excitement and anticipation that maybe, just maybe, if we get off to a good start things could be better than last season. It’s also meeting the new players, catching up with last season’s players and seeing the buzz around the club after a quiet close season…
Say it quickly but how many seasons have you been chairman now?
I became chairman in 2002
How did you become involved with Whyteleafe in the first place?
Back in 1995/6, following a meeting with Paul Owens (the then chairman) myself and Graham Douce started the Whyteleafe youth section with an under 12s team, which my youngest son Buba (Mark Jnr) and Graham Douce’s son Leigh, played for. I was also Danny Rose’s goalkeeping coach and from there had spells of managing the youth, reserves and first team.
I'm guessing that you were very pleased with the way Harry (Hudson, manager) and Calum (McFarlane assistant) hit the ground running this time last year?
Excellent start, especially when you consider it was pretty much a new squad. Harry and Calum new exactly the brand of football they wanted to play and assembled a very young side that had the ability to follow instructions and express themselves at the same time.
Apart from the obvious hiccups here and there last term how pleased were you with the brand of football we were playing most of the time?
Certainly, the first half of the season was a pleasure to watch, the team were very well organised with each player knowing his role.
It was quick and exciting football, a mixture of playing from the back, long ball when needed and using the traditional wingers to provide service to the forwards. With players moving on and injuries the second phase of the season it became a little fragmented, which is sometime a casualty of being successful at this level of football. However, the team spirit remained and at times still produced some of the early season performances.
A young manager was a new departure for you what prompted going for youth over experience?
There were a number of reasons really. I guess having appointed “experienced” managers in the past and achieving pretty much the same results (barring the relegation of course) It was time to give an opportunity to younger coaches, which many clubs are reluctant to do.
I felt that these young coaches, having gone through the effort, time and cost to achieve their qualifications, should be given the opportunity to manage, just as you would give a young player the opportunity to progress.
I believe that players and changing room banter has changed over the years as has the social side, in my opinion younger managers have a better understanding of this and have more in common with the modern player.
Have you got a message for the Leafe faithful as 2019/2020 approaches?
Like most non-league clubs the fans are integral part of what clubs stand for, sadly not many of the fans get involved in the workings of a club anymore, however they are vitally important for match day experience.
We have for many years had a small core of loyal Leafe Army fans, so it would be fantastic if we could have the same start as last season to give them a little hope, because when the team is doing well the Leafe Army are the best in the league for song and banter.
What has been encouraging for me is that the fan base is growing with a lot of new faces and it would be great if the whole fan base could get together in song. It would also be nice to see a few fans helping out on matchdays with stewarding and parking, in saying that if any fan would like to be involved with the first team officially, there is a vacancy for football secretary which gets you in the heart of senior football dealing with players, referees, league and the FA. (no experience necessary).
What's the best thing about being a football club chairman?
I can only speak for myself and if I’m honest it’s probably seeing the rising and development of our youth system, from the under 7s upwards, going back to why I was happy with the appointment of Harry and Calum’s appointment was that they strongly believe in development of young players and while they have hunger to win they remain faithful to our philosophy of developing youngsters.
I guess also while it’s been very difficult over the last 15 years financially, the club has always moved forward and the introduction of the 3G playing surface has allowed this. We should be proud that we were the first non-league football club to play on 3G surface in Surrey and within the M25, all we need to do now is be the first club to do it at steps 4 and 3 …!
Finally, I would like you to become Mystic Mark for a minute or two - Let's look three years down the line. Ideally, which league would you like the club to be playing in?
Look, my priority for this club has always been to keep providing a football facilities for the community, be it through boys and girls juniors and youth football or through adult ladies/mens first team football and for each team to play at the highest level.… However, my answer to your question, I believe we have the facility and first team management to get us in the Isthmian Premier league within three years.
Oh, and forgive me for this BUT I can't resist - is the old cliché true that the way to make a small fortune out of owning a football club is to start with a big one????
I guess WFC was a big club when I became chairman! The truth, however, is the only millionaires from football are agents, managers and players!