Cash is tight but belief is still high

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THOSE attending Falkirk’s shareholders’ meeting last week were handed some of the brutal truths about the club’s perilous finances.

Subsequent predictions of more losses for this season from chairman Martin Ritchie backed the claim from George Craig that the club needed fresh thinking to create fresh funding on top of season ticket sales.

Steven Pressley covered his remit - with the team on the park - but he too was looking for some fresh thinking in the long term strategy and what can be achieved with the club’s youth set-up.

The club’s reliance on, and belief in, the Academy was evident from all four presentations - from Ritchie, Craig, Ross Wilson and team boss Pressley.

But the team manager. while detailing his desire to fulfil his short-term promotion goal, shocked some when he tolled out some realities he’s faced as manager.

All signings made by the club since June 2010 - bar one - have agreed to join on a weekly wage of less than £500 per week.

And 85 per cent of the wage budget was already tied up in existing contracts - and even that’s facing further cuts.

Overall, turnover could fall to a level nearly 70 pc less than what it was when John Hughes saved the Bairns from the drop on the final-day of drama at Inverness.

The Bairns relegated the Highland club that day, with one of just 15 wins from the Bairns’ final two seasons in the SPL. Inverness responded by bouncing straight back - and replaced the Bairns 12 months later.

Instead of retaining the core of the squad as Caley did, Falkirk’s approach has been different.

Shareholders were shown the tumbling graphs with the losses incurred, showing how it had to be so. They could tumble further with the risk of a drop in season ticket uptake next term.

The figures on the balance sheets, particularly for wages, showed a fall too. That’s due to fall by even more come release of this term’s set.

So emphasis returned to the club’s Academy system.

Graeme Souness sparked a revolution in Scottish football a quarter of a century ago.

During boom-time even Falkirk were signing players from England’s top division for more than £100,000 - a figure that would translate into four players at The Falkirk Stadium in the present day.

Most clubs before then focused their energies on locally developed players and their youth systems to supply their first team squads. That’s what necessity dictates Falkirk must do and what Pressley says he wants to do - and he should have the tools to do it.

Falkirk’s impressive set-up at Stirling, the youth Academy steadily bearing fruit, and home crowd of five thousand at most games were perceived as the building blocks for a success story.

“We need everyone to buy into this football club and what we’re trying to achieve,” he stressed to the meeting.

He rhymed off “family clubs, with players progressing through the club on the way to the first team, together,” such as Dundee United circa 1980s, Manchester United in the 90s and Barcelona of the last decade as models to aspire to - minimum outlay on player expenditure but maximum reward from honing the best talent in-house.

“They were backed all the way by the fans, the staff, the management and players. That’s the model for us at this club to learn from.”

Ross Wilson had already waxed lyrical on some of the shining lights in the under-15 side being primed for a career in the dark blue.

There are high hopes for international caps Craig Sibbald and Kyle Turnbull, and for midfielder Craig Comrie. If Falkirk have their way they’ll progress to the first-team during their newly agreed three-year contracts.

That’s what the football side of the business sees as the way forward.

With an expected loss in mind, who they’ll be joined by over the next few years depends on promotion, season ticket sales, player sales and a general improvement in the club’s perilous finances.