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Weekly News - 3/6/20

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Weekly News - 3/6/20

Tom Wright stood down as the Gladiators’ Chairman on Monday, but after sixty one years as a supporter, committee member and then as Chairman for the past twelve years, he still has lots to contribute to Matlock Town.

His Chairman duties were also combined with a role as the club’s Commercial Manager and his powers of persuasion must have earned the club hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years. While his decision to stand down came as a shock to colleagues associated with Matlock, the good news is that he will be staying on as the club’s s Commercial Manager.

So he will bat on as his long innings with the Gladiators will continue. His father first took him to Causeway Lane as a ten year old in 1959 and he was soon hooked as Matlock made it through to the 1st Round Proper of the FA Cup in November 1959 and won the Midland League title in 1961/62 and 1968/69.

When the Gladiators Social Club opened in 1976, three days after the historic FA Cup 2nd Round victory at Mansfield, he chaired the Social Club committee, playing a key role in ensuring the Gladiators had some long awaited social facilities on the ground. As Chairman he was heavily involved in the planning and building of the new Twiggs Stand and Social Club, opened in 2011 which are the envy of many non league clubs. On the field Matlock won the Derbyshire Senior Cup three times during his tenure.

Standing down as Chairman proved to be an immensely tough decision for him.

“I made the decision with a heavy heart” he admitted. “But now I feel it’s time for a fresh approach, in these difficult times for us all it needs someone younger to move the club on to achieve its full potential, someone dynamic with lots of energy, enthusiasm and commitment.”

Mr Wright is understandably particularly proud of his work in the commercial department and may find it more challenging than ever now given the implications for the country and businesses after the Covid-19 outbreak.

“ I’ve organised fifty three Sportsmans Dinners featuring some big names in football and sport and there’s more to come” he promised.

“I’m really grateful for the support we’ve had at these events and for the backing the club’s received from lots of businesses over the years and I hope that will continue.”

Despite mixed fortunes during his tenure, He looks back on his reign in charge and before with great pride.

“It’s been a great privilege, pleasure and honour to be Chairman of this great club for all these years, we’ve seen some great times and some difficult times” he reflected.

“I have many fantastic memories, the trip to Italy for the Anglo-Italian Cup when I was the Social Club Chairman in 1979, many good cup runs with the win at Mansfield in 1976 and making it through to play Scunthorpe United in the 1st Round in 1989 and more recently the win against Mansfield Town in the FA Trophy. The worst moment on the field for me was being relegated in 1995/96 when we lost the last game of the season at Barrow.”

Mr Wright has seen managers come and go in recent years but has special mention for the first man he appointed to the managerial hot seat. Former Premiership title winner Mark Atkins came to the club in November 2008 and had just shy of six years in charge.

“It was a real pleasure working for six years with Mark who was very professional, knowledgeable and totally respected by the players. We’ve also had some excellent players and it’s been a privilege to work alongside the likes of James Lukic and Adam Yates, both great players but also totally committed and loyal to Matlock Town Football Club.”

His last managerial appointment was installing Paul Phillips to the hotseat last January after the departure of Steve Kittrick.

Speaking on Monday night, Phillips said the news was “a total shock.”

“I didn’t see it coming, in the short while I’ve been at the club he’s been great to me so it’s a total shock. He appointed me to the job here at Matlock and for that I’ll always be grateful. Time moves on and perhaps he hasn’t quite got the same energy as he had say ten years ago but he’s told me that he’ll always be on the end of the phone if I need anything. I think he feels it’s the right time and someone else will have the chance to step up and push the club on.”

Tom himself says he has high hopes that Phillips will do well at Matlock.

“He’s got loads of drive and commitment, a true football man. He has wide experience at this level, the job he did at Ashton was phenomenal and I have every confidence he can be successful here at Matlock. We need some stability now and it’s up to everyone, players, officials and fans to give him their full support.”

He will spend more time now at his property in Spain but his unstinting commitment to Matlock Town will ensure that the commercial side of the club will remain in capable hands.

“I’ll be fully committed in the Commercial Manager role and it’ll be a pleasure to carry on working with the great team of people that all contribute to running this club so effectively. We also have a great bunch of fans and I’d like to thank each and every one of them for their personal support to me and the club over the years. I’m sure everyone will give my successor their full support in the years to come.”

Matlock hope to be able to provide an update on the vacant Chairman’s position within the next week.

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The tributes have poured in for departing Matlock Town Chairman Tom Wright.

Mr Wright announced he was standing down as Chairman on Monday but will remain as the Gladiators Commercial Manager.

Mark Atkins who played a leading part in Blackburn Rovers’ Premiership title winning season in 1994/95 was Tom’s first managerial appointment at Matlock following the departure of joint bosses Phil Brown and Gareth Williams in October 2008. Atkins was the Gladiators boss for six years and he says he has become good friends with him.

“Tom’s done a fantastic job in some very difficult times. He always supported me as a manager in every way he could and became a good friend. I still miss those long talks about players we used to have. He’s a real gentleman who loves Matlock Town. I wish him all the best .”

Another former Gladiators boss Dave Frecklington echoed Atkins’ thoughts despite only being in situ for seven months at the Proctor Cars Stadium.

“ I really enjoyed working with the Chairman, great knowledge of players past and present” he tweeted.

“A true gentleman and a well respected figure in the non league scene.”

Current Gladiators club captain Adam Yates has been at the club for nearly all of Tom’s tenure and he says the now former Chairman is “a class act”.

“I’m sad to see Tom step down as he has always been there for me over the last ten years, being a young 19 year old signing my first contract with the club. He would do anything for anyone! That’s if you support Matlock of course” he smiled.

“I’m sure we won’t be able to get rid of him that easily! He’s assured me he’ll still be around the place asking me “are you fit Yatesy” before every game. Tom, you’re a class act but enjoy taking a back seat, we all understand your reasons for standing down.”

Former Gladiators midfielder Liam King tweeted “all the best Tom” while many fans have sent messages of thanks on Matlock’s social media pages.

John Kennedy, father of former Matlock goalkeeper Jon Kennedy probably summed up those feelings by saying “all the best Tom, you’re a credit to Matlock Town and non league football.”

There has even been a message from Eddie McNamee, Chairman of Whitby Town.

“Take care Tom, put your feet up mate and have a well deserved rest. Hopefully still see you at the games.”

Bryn Apperley has been the Gladiators Vice Chairman during the latter part of Tom’s reign. He says Tom’s expertise in raising funds for the Gladiators has been priceless over the years.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have had Tom’s influence and experience at the helm of the club. He’s clearly well respected and as such Matlock Town are held in such high esteem by other clubs. Without his solid hard work in raising income, the club just wouldn’t be able to function. I’m really pleased this isn’t a complete break from the club, we need people like Tom passing on his experience and keeping

the continuity going. I’ve spent the last few years working with Tom as Vice Chairman and I’d like to personally thank him for the experience and I look forward to carrying on working with him.”

President Dennis Hobson said Tom is “Matlock through and through” but the final word goes to Matlock’s long serving Chief Executive Keith Brown.

“Tom’s been a tremendous asset to the club over many years and I’m delighted he’s staying on the management committee and continuing his role as Commercial Manager. I’ve known Tom as a friend, colleague and competitor in the quarrying industry for over 45 years. He did great work as Chairman of our Social Club back in the seventies turning the old wooden building into an enjoyable facility on matchdays and arranging functions to raise funds for the football club. As Commercial Manager he’s done an outstanding job in getting sponsorship, signboards on the ground, arranging golf days and popular Sportsmans Evenings. In his time as Chairman we’ve seen good and bad days but Tom never gave up. After many years of hard work he was then able to see the opening of the new changing rooms and 300 seater stand plus a new boardroom, medical room and tea bar, and a fantastic social club to accommodate over 200 people which not only is a great asset to the club but is used extensively by the local community. Tom, Matlock Town has been a major part of your life and I hope you will be able to enjoy the continuing development of the club for many years to come.”

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Matlock Town’s tradition of being a family club has been rubberstamped with two new appointments this week.

Graeme Corker has been installed as the Gladiators’ School Liaison Officer while Bryan Owen takes on the role of Community Support Officer.

When the new season eventually gets under way, the Gladiators won’t be short of young support.

Graeme will be busy visiting 38 local schools in the Matlock, Bakewell and Wirksworth areas inviting Year 6 pupils to attend a game at the Proctor Cars Stadium. Parents and teachers will be invited to join the pupils.

“ The aim is for the youngsters to have a really enjoyable afternoon at Matlock Town as they’ll receive a tour of the stadium and meet the management and players with the chance to get autographs. If the weather permits they’ll be able to walk on the pitch and each pupil will receive a souvenir of the day” said Graeme.

“We want to build up a relationship between Matlock Town FC and the local school community. We want to establish a Junior Gladiator Membership Club. I’ll also be scouting the schools for any talent for the local junior teams as well as working closely with Bryan (Owen)”.

Bryan lays a lot of importance on the family aspect and he says non footballing youngsters will be equally welcome at the Proctor Cars Stadium.

“Matlock Town FC holds a tradition in being a family club, with that in mind we want to promote its openness to all our local youth groups and to explore how we can grow in terms of providing better links within the community. We want to achieve clear lines of contact and reference to those wanting to join us on a matchday to improve the experience we can offer.”

Like Graeme, Bryan will be very active within the local youth community forming strong links with existing partner clubs and hoping to create new opportunities for others.

“Of course you don’t have to be in a football team to visit Matlock Town FC” Bryan insisted.

“We’re just as happy to welcome all individuals and groups who wish to come and see what we have to offer. I’ll be attending football matches at all levels within the area and helping to promote the club. It’ll be great if this local talent could eventually go on to play for Matlock Town FC.”

Ian Richardson