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Wayne Roberts has admitted that the summer months have been "extremely difficult" for his club but feels that the future can be a bright one.
The AFC Team Bath manager has had to handle matters during an uncertain period after the withdrawal of backing by Bristol City, but he told Women's Soccer Scene that things are carrying on as normal as possible. "Little has changed in terms of the club structure," he said, "in so much as we have retained the coaching staff and many of the players. The main changes off the pitch are that we have lost some of our support in terms of committee members standing down, but we are still working hard to replace those.
"The biggest difficulties are financial, having lost support from Bristol City but we are trying to work on that side of things by looking into sponsorship opportunities. The University of Bath is supporting us by offering some of their professional expertise in this area so we are hopeful!"
Wayne also admits that it has been tough keeping the club going. "Extremely difficult and it still is!" he replies. "We weren't able to tell interested players whether we would have a club or not until 4 or 5 weeks ago. We have lost players to other clubs that had to make a decision about where they were going to play, which is understandable, but hard for us in terms of recruiting the right quality of players.
"However, I feel fortunate to have retained 80% of our squad from Bristol City, many of whom are loyal to each other and so they have decided to stay together, no matter what. We were all gutted to leave our surroundings and support at Bristol City as Steve Lansdown, his wife Maggie and everyone at the club have been hugely supportive to us for a long time now. However, we have an opportunity to move forward again and I am confident that if we can get through this year then we will continue our long history of success.
"The staff at Team Bath have been hugely supportive of our club renaming and it has made the move that bit easier, and the facilities and services at the University are quite simply World Class so we have a lot to inspire us as we move into a new chapter of the club;s history. I would like to say, the FA have been great in supporting our name change, especially Tessa Hayward at the Premier League and Jonathon Pike of the Somerset County FA.
"The players have found it very hard with so little certainty surrounding the club, but they have supported my efforts tremendously. A few of the players have been quite fantastic - Holly Miles for example has taken on a voluntary role as Secretary and she has taken on a massive amount of work to support the club's progression. Other players have helped with some fund raising ideas, or administratively, or helping to identify local players who might want to play for us. Since we heard the news that we could change our name and carry on, they have all trained brilliantly and seem motivated to perform despite all of the troubles.
Things have looked more promising in recent weeks but Wayne remains unsure about the long term future of the club. "To be honest, we just don't know what the future holds," he admits. "We will be working to recruit players and to create a sustainable future. The one problem I envisage is finances but if we can solve that, then the future is extremely bright.
"Bath, as a City and University, is going to be heavily involved with performance sport in the run-up to the Olympics and I would like to think that we can be a part of that by developing talented young players to represent their country, and maybe even be part of a GB Olympic team for women's football if that happens. If we can resolve the financial situation, then we could be even stronger as a club than previously, because of the facilities and support staff at the University of Bath."
Now Wayne can finally turn his attention to managing the team, starting with their first match of the season against West Ham Utd on Sunday. After all that has happened, what would represent a good season for AFC Team Bath? "A good season would be winning the league and being promoted to the National Division!" he smiles. "In all seriousness, we have always competed well and if things can settle down a bit at the club then why not?! However, given recent times, I would be delighted if we had a healthy, sustainable club in 12 months time, preparing properly for a real assault on the Southern Division. With all things considered, I'm delighted that we are going to have a season, because six weeks ago that wasn't the case!!"
AFC Team Bath captain Kirsty Richardson, together with team mates Holly Miles and Jo Williams, give their thoughts on the summer and the season ahead on our TV Channel!
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