Tom Glick, Chairman of Derby County: Exclusive Interview
Derby County Football Club finished 19th in the Championship this season. It is a club with a rich history and very loyal fans. I had the pleasure of getting in touch with Chief Executive, Chairman of Football and President of Derby County Football Club Tom Glick.
He came into the club on January 28th, 2008 when General Sports and Entertainment purchased the team. It was a very tough situation as the club was in the process of being relegated from the English Premier League. Four years later the club is still in the Championship. What are their plans for next season? Do they have aspirations of getting back to the English Premier League? I asked Mr. Glick those questions and many more that span his entire career with Derby County Football Club. Here is my Q and A with Tom Glick.
You came to Derby County during a very difficult situation. What have you learned from being relegated that will help you once you someday return to the English Premier League?
TG: We knew before we got here how competitive the Premier League is. It’s the best league in the world after all. The brief time we spent there showed us that preparation and being ready for it is by far the most important aspect of competing when you are there. Recruitment has to be spot on; picking players with the right ability, mentality and character. Derby County did not enjoy good preparations ahead of the 2007/08 Premier League season and ultimately we paid a very heavy price for that. Clubs like Stoke City have shown what can be achieved by making good acquisitions year on year. West Brom will be another good example of this; they will survive this season and build from good foundations. I can assure all Derby County supporters that WHEN we return we will be better equipped and will be there with the intention of staying there and making an impact.
Was the relegation period your most difficult time with the club, or has there been a time since then that has been more challenging?
TG: The entire experience has been challenging, but it has only served to make us hungrier and more determined to be successful. This really is a special football club and there are no supporters in the country who deserve a winning team more than our fans. Being relegated on 11 points was a horrible thing to endure and I think it left a scar that has taken a while to heal. The last decade has been tough for Derby County; the good seasons have been the exception rather than the rule. Our aim is to bring sustainable and long lasting success. I can’t hide from the fact there have been times during this season that have been as tough as anything I have experienced in my professional life, which is over 23 years in sport. However, we see signs in the squad for great optimism going forward, with players like Fielding, Brayford, Barker, Bailey, Cywka and many others. My job now is to work with the manager to bring in better more experienced players to bolster the team and the squad, particularly centre forwards.
Do you feel there was a learning curve for you since you had no prior experience working in football prior to coming to Derby County?
TG: Yes, because it’s important you learn and grow in every job you do. I’ve learned quickly about the mechanisms of the game in England and looked to immerse myself in the culture of it; on and off the field. My contacts and network in the game is certainly better and I’ve looked to grow that for the benefit of doing this job better for Derby County. However, I also feel that having worked in professional sports my entire career, over 23 years in fact, that my knowledge and expertise on how to lead this Club was already in place.
Eighteen months ago you mentioned in an EPL Talk podcast interview that your long term ambitions were to be the best run club both on and off the pitch. Do you feel now you are headed in the right direction?
TG: Definitely! We have made huge strides off the pitch in the operation of the Club and I think supporters have seen the benefits of that. We have excellent ticket packages, be it season tickets or other offers that make it affordable for fans of all backgrounds and ages to follow the team they love. Our revenues are up; there is only Leeds United in the entire Football League that generates more revenue than we do. Financially we are in great shape and in many respects an example to other Clubs to follow. However, on the pitch we recognize that we have to do better and put together a side that excites our fans. That is going to take extra investment this summer and that’s what our owners are going to do. They have already invested heavily in this Club but are not satisfied with where we are in the Championship and want to be challenging for promotion from next season. That will take better, more experienced players and we intend to go and get them.
In this podcast you stated that your plan was to get back to the Premier League. You stated that you were going to to do it sensibly and you were not going to rush to do it. Are you feeling any pressure now to change that philosophy and speed up the timetable?
TG: We don’t feel pressure and we will be sticking by our plan and running Derby County in a sensible and responsible way; the Club needs that. What we have recognized is that extra investment is needed to be more competitive and we are prepared to show that ambition. At the moment we make a loss that is covered by our owners. Next season we will make a bigger loss because of the extra money we will be spending and again that money will be covered by our owners. That’s how we run this Club; we don’t leverage debt and leave Derby County with a yoke around its shoulders. As for timing; we obviously want to be there sooner rather than later, but we are committed for the long term and will be seeing this job through.
Recently you have offered a money back guarantee to the fans if they are not happy with the transfer activity of the club. Why do you feel it is necessary to make this offer?
TG: Because we wanted fans to judge us on our actions not our words. Our season ticket holders are the life-blood of our Club. Every penny of their season ticket is invested into the Club. Every penny of every shirt, programme, pie and soft drink bought goes into running this Club. And when there is a short fall, which there is, the investors put their hands in the pockets and make up the difference so we don’t incur extra debt. We don’t take them for granted and we know it is incumbent on us to deliver a winning side for them; that’s what we intend to do. As Chief Executive I feel I have two responsibilities to our season ticket holders. Firstly, make their package affordable and good value; our season ticket prices are among the best on our division for value. Secondly, I have to make sure we have a good side that is successful. So far we haven’t delivered on the second and we intend to put that right, starting this summer.
You have stated in recent interviews that you will need to spend more money this summer to upgrade the club. Why is this summer transfer window going to be different than say the last two years?
TG: We have spent time getting our house in order and Nigel (Clough) deserves great credit for that. He inherited a squad that was too big and too expensive; our wage bill would not have been responsible or sustainable post parachute payments. We also had a lot of players who were dead weights. By that I mean earning large sums of money but not contributing in return. We are now at a stage where we need better experienced players to lead the undoubted young talent we have acquired. We have lost a lot of games and points because we have conceded a lot of late goals this season. We’ve also lost a lot of game by just a single goal. We believe added experience and players with a proven track record at Championship level or above will make us a side that can compete for the playoffs; that’s our aim next season.
There seems to be some confusion regarding ownership. GSE based on what I have read is an ownership group with several investors. Do you think Derby is being run similar to how FSG are running Liverpool? Would that be a fair comparison?
TG: Well we would be flattered with a comparison to FSG, because I consider them to be one of the best run sports organizations. We are certainly both North American ownership consortiums. Derby County has a stellar group of individuals on the ownership group, who also have other sports ownerships in North America – Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Minnesota Timberwolves, Vancouver Whitecaps — although independent of each other. We are working hard to realize the commercial opportunities of our club, assemble a winning team, honour the Club’s heritage and be an active participate in the communities where our supporters live and work. FSG has done that with the Red Sox and I fully expect them to do the same with Liverpool.
Please could you explain Derby County Ltd and how this company, set up by the investors, impacts Derby County Football Club, and what it would mean for the club if the Ltd company went on to purchase an American franchise as was rumored last year with the Detroit Pistons?
TG: The company has been established solely for the purpose of operating Derby County Football Club and its facilities Pride Park Stadium and Moor Farm Training Ground. We are singularly focused on that and have much more to do. There are no current plans to purchase and operate other clubs.
How do you balance wanting to be financially responsible, with a need to spend money in order to upgrade the club and win?
TG: There are many examples, in our division, of teams who can be run responsibly and still compete. Take this season for example; three of the current top six either spend less or the same as us on wages. Other sides in the top half spend less than us on their team. Increasingly we are seeing in the Championship that spending big, particularly on wage bills, doesn’t guarantee a top six finish. This season two of the biggest spenders are Middlesbrough and Sheffield United; both have been at the bottom end of the table for the entire campaign. We believe our model is in the best interest of Derby County and without being too grand, in the best interest of the game long term. I believe more and more owners will start to question the strategy of making huge, unsustainable losses to chase the Premier League.
In regards to player development, do you have any input on what players to buy, or is that the sole decision of Nigel Clough?
TG: Nigel and I have an excellent working relationship and we work closely together on a daily basis. When it comes to ‘football decisions’ and policy as regards to players, Nigel is of course the person at the Club with the biggest say and most influence. But we have good people throughout the Club who assist Nigel and myself, be it players recruitment, training, fitness, medical and academy.
You have mentioned in interviews that you believe that manager Nigel Clough is the right man to bring Derby County forward. Why do you feel that way?
TG: Nigel is a bright, dedicated, passionate individual who is steeped in the game and wakes up every day looking to make Derby County a better Club. Like myself, we have had to learn and grow in his role and we believe he continues to learn and improve every season. It’s been a tough couple of seasons and Nigel’s leadership during this time has been crucial to us. Nigel is our guy and we have been consistent with that; we see no need to say anything different.
There have been many strongly substantiated rumors about discord in the dressing room. Is there any truth to this speculation?
TG: I don’t comment on rumor or speculation, I deal in reality and facts. I see the players first hand on a daily basis and watch all of our games. There is no doubting their commitment to Nigel or the team.
You are strongly behind Nigel Clough. Do you think he and Johnny Metgod would be better supported by someone with experience rather than Taylor, Garner & Crosby? Why not a Director of Football to guide and support Nigel in this early stage of his development as a manager?
TG: Yes, we are reflecting on our current performance and the skills and depth of talent at the Club with an eye on better buyer, seller, developer and manager of talent. We currently have a talented and committed Manager and coaching staff. If we can add something to that and improve, we will do that.
With regard to the above question, do you fully trust the judgement of the current staff to spend a substantial amount wisely in the summer when they don’t have experience as spending large amounts on players?
TG: Yes. While we have been generally conservative in the amounts spent on player purchases in the last two seasons, our staff know talent. We will work closely together to ensure we make the right deals financially and to convince our targets that Derby County is a place they will enjoy their football and will achieve success.
Where do you see Derby County one year from now in the Championship?
TG: We intend to be in the playoff positions in the Championship; that is our aim. We will be buying better, more experienced players this summer and we believe we can recruit a team that will challenge for promotion.
I want to thank Alison Gregory who contributed to this article. I also want to thank Tom Glick and Matt McCann, who is Communications and Media Manager for Derby County Football Club, for making this interview possible.