DCSIMG

Celts paying for shot at the high life

PRESIDENT John Palmer today insisted Farsley Celtic "had to get back to reality" after paying a heavy price for chasing the dream.

Celtic have taken the part-time football world by storm since the turn of the century, with three promotions in four seasons transforming them from a UniBond League First Division minnow into the best non-league club in the county by May 2007.

It was the stuff dreams are made of for former chairman Palmer, who has dedicated 35 years of his life to the Throstle Nest outfit.

But when a planning application to sell off part of their land for housing was thwarted at the 11th hour, Celtic discovered the success was built on very shaky foundations, and when things started crumbling they found themselves relegated from the Conference in May 2008.

Palmer told the YEP the success was too much too soon for Farsley and, along with son Steven, 50, he is now busy steadying the ship.

Palmer said: "We simply went forward too quickly with hardly any planning whatsoever. After hitting the big time, we realised we weren't structured to be in there.

"We lived heavily on the hopes the plans for the ground would go through, we stretched ourselves too far and have got into a situation where we have to do something about it. We have got to get back to reality.

"I am now back on the board. My son will be coming on the board – he is a major shareholder already – and we will be dealing with all footballing matters.

"I've told Neil Parsley (manager) I'm in charge, and I went into the dressing room on Saturday and I told the players what was happening and I think they have confidence in me."

Farsley's dream rise began in 2004 when a third-place finish sealed promotion to the UniBond League top-flight for the first time in their history.

It followed the appointment of former Bradford City player Lee Sinnott as manager at the start of the season.

In 2006, they beat North Ferriby United in the Premier Division play-off final to make up for the disappointment of being stripped of the title 12 months earlier following the demise of Spennymoor United and a readjustment to the final league table.

Another play-off final success followed in 2007, when never-say-die Farsley beat Hinckley 4-3 in a thrilling showdown at Burton Albion to ensure they would dine at non-league's top table for the first time.

Celtic were busy that summer, signing the likes of former York City defenders Graeme Law and Anthony Lloyd, ex-Leeds United centre-half Mark Jackson, experienced strikers Tris Whitman and Scott McNiven and goalkeeper Mark Wilberforce, from Scarborough.

But matters on the field were dealt a blow when Sinnott was head-hunted by Football League outfit Port Vale in November 2007, and worse followed off it last March when Leeds City Council turned down an application which would have seen Bellway Homes buy a section of land at Throstle Nest to build 26 houses and 31 apartments.

The money raised would have enabled Farsley to redevelop their main stand and clubhouse and improve car parking and the outer pitches at Throstle Nest, with the Football League now within their sights. The club wanted better facilities in order to facilitate a step up and to generate more income, with crowds still struggling to break the four-figure barrier on a regular basis.

Leeds City Council stressed at the time there was "still hope" for a revised scheme to get the go-ahead but that would take the club beyond that season.

Palmer said: "It was a dream to get into the Conference – and the money (from Bellway) was still there on the table. When that went we thought all we had to do was get through the year, but then we didn't stay up.

"We got into a little bit of a situation through the belief we were going to get planning permission. We were spending the money before we got it. But two days before it went in for planning permission I got told on very good authority it would go through and when you are told that, everyone at the club believed it was going to happen.

"We overstretched ourselves chasing the dream, believing the back-up was there."

Things came to a head in October when John Deacey, who had succeeded Sinnott as manager, was sacked by the club. Palmer, who was against the decision, resigned from the board.

But he remained in his role as president and has now returned to Throstle Nest to help get the club back on a more solid footing after admitting the gamble backfired.

He said: "I've been part of most of the decisions, the idea we could afford to borrow money on the fact it was going to come in. I've gone along with the decisions. We told the shareholders and they were happy.

It backfired.

"And like people with houses are now finding they are worth less than 18 months ago, the land's value has dropped as well.

"Last year we had an offer on the table with Bellway which was supported by the planning officers but the political arguments stopped it going through – there is only half that amount on the table now because the housing market isn't vibrant.

"If the credit crunch hadn't come along, there would be people queueing up to take the land.

"It's left us in a bit of a state but I do believe we can get out of it."

But Palmer stressed there would be no quick-fix, and has ruled out the possibility of the club making a swift return to the Conference this season.

"We're still ambitious, we just might have to go a bit slower," he said. "And I think promotion is out of the window. I think it would be wrong for us to go for promotion this year because if we get there we haven't got the structure to sustain it.

"We are stepping backwards and having a long, hard look at it and trying to consolidate things.

"We have big decisions to make over the next few weeks. The club is going to be restructured and we are working on getting new money in. We have to get it right – but I have people in mind for all the jobs which need filling.

"The squad has stayed together fairly well, we are playing well and we will be alright. There is no danger whatsoever of this club going out of business."

It followed the appointment of former Bradford City player Lee Sinnott as manager at the start of the season.

In 2006, they beat North Ferriby United in the Premier Division play-off final to make up for the disappointment of being stripped of the title 12 months earlier following the demise of Spennymoor United and a readjustment to the final league table.

Another play-off final success followed in 2007, when never-say-die Farsley beat Hinckley 4-3 in a thrilling showdown at Burton Albion to ensure they would dine at non-league's top table for the first time.

Celtic were busy that summer, signing the likes of former York City defenders Graeme Law and Anthony Lloyd, ex-Leeds United centre-half Mark Jackson, experienced strikers Tris Whitman and Scott McNiven and goalkeeper Mark Wilberforce, from Scarborough.

But matters on the field were dealt a blow when Sinnott was head-hunted by Football League outfit Port Vale in November 2007, and worse followed off it last March when Leeds City Council turned down an application which would have seen Bellway Homes buy a section of land at Throstle Nest to build 26 houses and 31 apartments.

The money raised would have enabled Farsley to redevelop their main stand and clubhouse and improve car parking and the outer pitches at Throstle Nest, with the Football League now within their sights. The club wanted better facilities in order to facilitate a step up and to generate more income, with crowds still struggling to break the four-figure barrier on a regular basis.

Leeds City Council stressed at the time there was "still hope" for a revised scheme to get the go-ahead but that would take the club beyond that season.

Believed

Palmer said: "It was a dream to get into the Conference – and the money (from Bellway) was still there on the table. When that went we thought all we had to do was get through the year, but then we didn't stay up.

"We got into a little bit of a situation through the belief we were going to get planning permission. We were spending the money before we got it. But two days before it went in for planning permission I got told on very good authority it would go through and when you are told that, everyone at the club believed it was going to happen.

"We overstretched ourselves chasing the dream, believing the back-up was there."

Things came to a head in October when John Deacey, who had succeeded Sinnott as manager, was sacked by the club. Palmer, who was against the decision, resigned from the board.

But he remained in his role as president and has now returned to Throstle Nest to help get the club back on a more solid footing after admitting the gamble backfired.

He said: "I've been part of most of the decisions, the idea we could afford to borrow money on the fact it was going to come in. I've gone along with the decisions. We told the shareholders and they were happy. It backfired.

“And like people with houses are now finding they are worth less than 18 months ago, the land’s value has dropped as well.

“Last year we had an offer on the table with Bellway which was supported by the planning officers but the political arguments stopped it going through – there is only half that amount on the table now because the housing market isn’t vibrant.

“If the credit crunch hadn’t come along, there would be people queueing up to take the land.

“It’s left us in a bit of a state but I do believe we can get out of it.”

But Palmer stressed there would be no quick-fix, and has ruled out the possibility of the club making a swift return to the Conference this season.

“We’re still ambitious, we just might have to go a bit slower,” he said. “And I think promotion is out of the window. I think it would be wrong for us to go for promotion this year because if we get there we haven’t got the structure to sustain it.

“We are stepping backwards and having a long, hard look at it and trying to consolidate things.

“We have big decisions to make over the next few weeks. The club is going to be restructured and we are working on getting new money in. We have to get it right – but I have people in mind for all the jobs which need filling.

“The squad has stayed together fairly well, we are playing well and we will be alright. There is no danger whatsoever of this club going out of business.”

wendy.walker@ypn.co.uk

 
 
 

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