Number of high-profile departures leave Gloucester City’s future under threat

Alarm bells are ringing at the Jubilee Stadium following news of a couple of highprofile departures.

No fewer than five club officials have left Vanarama National League South Gloucester City within the last week, with the very future of the club appearing to be under threat whilst talks of a phoenix set-up have not been ruled out.

First to exit was much-loved and well-respected manager Timothy Harris, who was subsequently followed out of the door by his assistant Marc Richards, chairman Michael Dunstan, club accountant Nick Priest and kit manager and assistant physiotherapist Lee Randall. Record appearance maker Thomas Webb is understood to be considering his future too.

Harris said: “It was with a heavy heart that I resigned from Gloucester City Football Club. “For those who know me it’s a decision I’ve not taken lightly and it’s been something I have wrestled with for at least the last six months. “I came back nearly four years ago and I have worked tirelessly with many good volunteers who shared my passion for the club. “We’ve tried to hold the club together while maintaining our league status in a very professional league.

“At the end of last season I expressed my concern publicly that the club could not continue without changing the structure and it shouldn’t keep relying on the goodwill of people putting in the endless hours a week that it takes to run a club at this level.

“Recently I surpassed 300 games managing this club, a record that I am proud of although there is no doubt the club needs to change.

“To say we have been punching above our weight is a massive understatement and the club needs some investment, some structure and business acumen if it is to maintain any hope of returning home at this level.

“We have lost a generation of supporters; it’s nearly 11 years since we played in our city and many fans have become disillusioned during this time.”

Harris added: “I do feel for those supporters who travel away, and away for home games, and I sincerely hope they understand my position.

“I informed the players after training last Tuesday evening and I said to them they must go out and show a high standard. “I am indebted to Will Morford for committing to stay on in the interim to keep the players together until something is decided.

“Finally I would like to thank everyone who has supported myself and the club and seriously hope things will change for the better.”

When questioned about a phoenix club, Harris said: “It is not something I have heard discussed but it is something that I would be right behind.”

Former chairman Dunstan, a man who had served the Tigers for over 27 years, was also keen to speak out about his reasons for standing down.

He said: “It was with regret that I informed the club’s owner last week that I was to resign from the position of chairman, coming into effect after the game against Eastbourne Borough to enable me to support Will Morford (caretaker manager) and the players after a difficult week.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to chair this fantastic football club but the time and effort it takes to run it is far beyond that which is reasonable for volunteers.

“I continue to believe in the future of this club and the huge potential it has, but it will only realise that potential by bringing in the skills, structure, leadership and investment the club needs and deserves.

“We are playing at a fantastic level but we are doing so without the infrastructure to support it and that simply cannot continue.

“I have supported the club all my adult life and worked for it on a voluntary basis for the last 27 years in just about every role, from dressing room cleaner to programme editor to chairman.

“This has therefore been a heartbreaking decision but one I must make. It is now my fervent hope that the club can move forward positively as it prepares to move back into the city.”

Dunstan insisted a move back to their Gloucester heartland was something that “absolutely must happen within the timescales laid out last week”.

He explained: “There is a lot of emotion around at the moment and I am feeling every ounce of it. But we should remember that for all of the problems we have we have also achieved miraculous things under impossible circumstances, and I would urge all supporters of this club to remember that there is a lot to be proud of.

“We have a first team playing at its highest level ever, despite all the odds. We have built a community arm that is doing fabulous work across the city and which will be taken to an even higher level in months to come.

“We have a youth set-up that provides opportunities for Gloucester children of all ages, and a Supporters’ Trust that is the envy of many clubs; still working miracles despite all the fans have been through.

“What we don’t have is the strategic leadership, structure and investment to underpin, support and drive all of that forward. That must change now to allow this club to thrive.

“For my part I will continue to support this club in whatever way I can and am talking to various parties as to how best to do that.”

Club accountant Priest stressed: “I hope out of the wreckage something more positive will emerge.

“I am preparing as clean a handover as I can and we are all united in one thing, which is in wanting the club to succeed.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.