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Shrimpers Trust AGM - Thursday 12th November 2009
The Shrimpers Trust held its 2009 Annual General Meeting in the Shrimpers Bar at Roots Hall on Thursday 12th November with Head of Youth and Reserve Team Manager Ricky Duncan the guest speaker.

Duncan was introduced to the Trust members present for a Question & Answer session after the formal business of the meeting was concluded, with Chairman Paul FitzGerald given the responsibility of delivering the opening speech.

FitzGerald’s main focus were the events of the previous fortnight as he admitted that he had “found it hard to think much further back than the last couple of weeks, where once again our club has been dragged to the brink and then rescued at the last minute.”

Clearly not being in Administration is a great relief to all fans but with the Football Club Chairman going back on his communication promise it’s difficult to piece together what the renewed funding means to the Club. This is something we’ll be trying to find out over the coming weeks,” he continued.

The South Woodham Ferrers resident also paid tribute to management duo Steve Tilson and Paul Brush for their efforts in keeping the club in contention for a play-off place throughout the crisis, stating that the pair “and a dozen or so players had tried to go about their business with continuing uncertainty about their future, not to mention their salaries.”

I think it’s a miracle we are where we are in the League and would like to personally congratulate the playing staff and indeed the club staff for their loyalty and attitude during this particularly difficult period.”

FitzGerald was able to touch on the subject of the Trust’s first-ever Strategy Meeting, held in June, where the main guest was Southend United FC Chairman Ron Martin as well as the February walk to Colchester United’s Weston Homes Community Stadium which constituted the organisation’s major fundraiser for the year.

He continued by recounting the highlights of the year, which included the Under-18s’ capture of the Football League Youth Alliance South-East Conference for the first time in the club’s history: “Ricky’s stewardship is producing players that can step up and we have been particularly pleased to see how Franck Moussa has become a must pick with Johnny Herd making numerous appearances and now Stuart O’Keefe and Kyle Asante being regular bench-warmers.”

Attention was brought to the Trust’s new website, with FitzGerald thanking Paul Yeomanson for all of his work in this area. He concluded by thanking all of the Trust’s committee for their endeavours in 2008 and 2009, especially the departing Lee Bird and Lara McSweeney and incoming Paul Napper and Kay Searle.

Questions were fielded from the floor on disabled facilities, away travel and the financial situation at Southend United FC before Treasurer Darren Posnack ran through the Accounts and Yeomanson ran through his Membership Report, where it was disclosed that the Shrimpers Trust is in the top ten across the country for membership numbers, and the leading club in Coca-Cola League One.

FitzGerald was voted in for a second successive term as Chairman, with Bryan Woodford continuing as Vice-Chairman. Trevor Bashford remained Company Secretary, with Posnack the Treasurer and Yeomanson Membership Secretary. Robert Craven was named Press Officer, whilst Paul Smith took on the Fundraising Officer mantle.

The Trust committee was re-elected en bloc, as was the Trust Board of Directors, which concluded the formal business and allowed FitzGerald to introduce Duncan as the special guest speaker.

Duncan began by thanking the Shrimpers Trust for all of their assistance with Southend United’s Centre of Excellence since his return to the football club: “The Trust’s support and, more recently, sponsorship, goes towards developing players for the future, right from the Under-8s to the Under-18s. Hopefully we will see the products of this in the first-team during the next five to ten years, as one of my main targets upon arriving was to see five first-teamers having come through the youth department.”

He spoke on a multitude of subjects, beginning with the balance between producing youngsters for Southend United and selling them on to Premier League clubs: “The priority is for us to bring players through for the first-team, but if the right offer comes in for both the club and for the player, then we have to look at that. With Medi Abalimba, who has gone to Derby, we saw that Franck Moussa and Stuart O’Keefe were already in the first-team squad in his position, plus we have George Smith, who has played for the Republic of Ireland Under-17s, just a year below him, so it was the right move for him. We are not here, though, just to sell to the big clubs,” he declared.

Winning the League was a great achievement,” the 44-year-old beamed, “but it was bigger for me to see Franck Moussa hold down a first-team place. If someone said to me that we would finish bottom of the Youth Alliance but you will produce two players for Steve Tilson’s squad, then I would take that.”

A few of the boys have now had a chance to travel with the first-team, and I can assure you that any of them that do get onto the pitch will play with all their heart for this club. Kyle Asante came on last week at Gillingham and he will travel again. If they do get on, they will not let Southend United down.”

The hardest part of my job is telling players that they are not being kept on. It was tough last year to release players after winning the League, but you cannot keep on seven scholars. We do have a good policy where we contact other clubs to try to get scholars new teams, and last year we managed to do this with all of the youngsters we released,” stated the Head of Youth.

Speaking about his youngsters’ development, Duncan said, “Youth team football is about development; I want to win every game, but not at the cost of the players’ development. I can tell them to go out and express themselves, but at first-team level it is about winning and I think that has an effect. I won’t change the way that I send my teams out."

Duncan was also put on the spot as to his own ambitions as he continues to impress during his second spell in south-east Essex: “It is a big question whether I want to move on to first-team management; if I do do it, then at 44 it will have to be in the next couple of years. Youth football is a massive different to senior football, and I don’t think I have finished what I have started here. I want to be an Academy Director as that experience will improve my coaching, and I want that to happen here.”

The Shrimpers Trust would like to thank Ricky Duncan for his time on Thursday evening, and for his openness and honesty in answering members’ questions. The full session is recounted in the Members Area of this Website which can be found by clicking here.
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