Chester FC manager Marcus Bignot believes the bond between the players and the supporters has been strengthened by the revelation of the club’s true financial plight.
It came to light at the end of January that the fan-owned club needed to find £50,000 to survive the season. More than £90,000 has been raised by supporters since then to ensure the Blues will make it through to the summer.
But, with big overheads remaining, and in particular the cost of the contracts of some of the players on two-year deals, further funds are going to have be raised. At the same time, costs will have to continue to be cut.
Whereas his predecessor Jon McCarthy was afforded the luxury of the club’s biggest budget since it reformed under the ownership of supporters, Bignot, in his own words, has had to ‘beg, steal and borrow’, particularly in recent weeks and months. That means the team that took to the field in last weekend’s devastating 3-2 defeat at Dagenham & Redbridge included academy graduates (Matty Waters, Tom Crawford), players whose contracts are being paid for by sponsors (Gary Roberts, Myles Anderson) and, in the case of Dominic Vose, a player who is playing for expenses only.
But, in spite of that, Chester’s performances have picked up in recent weeks, with the 3-1 home victory over Eastleigh being followed by harsh losses to Leyton Orient and then Dagenham, who equalised in controversial fashion in the 85th minute before following it up with a winner soon after. And Bignot believes a big reason for the improvement on the field has been the improvement in the ‘environment’ at the club, particularly at the Swansway Chester Stadium.
That could be vital. While the Blues remain a long shot to escape relegation to National League North, six of their final 11 games of the season do come in front of their own fans.
“I’ve got to say the environment at home now has definitely changed,” said Bignot, whose side return to action at home to Dover Athletic on Tuesday (7.45pm) after seeing their scheduled visit of Bromley tomorrow be postponed.
“That hangover, that resentment that was there for whatever reason, is clearly not there now. The atmosphere has been lifted and that has transcended on to the pitch. You’ve seen how the players have reacted to that.
“I thought I was going to have flashbacks, in all honesty, when I walked off the pitch at Dagenham when I saw the supporters congregating by the tunnel area. I thought, ‘here we go’, but they clapped us off.”
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