What a season!
First of all I would like to comment on how much I have enjoyed the campaign and want to put it on record that huge thanks must go to Jim Duffy, his staff and the players for making this happen.
Looking at the cold, hard facts, we are nine points better off than last year and while we finished a full 19 points behind fourth place, this year we finished four points above fifth place and made the play-offs.
The statistics are evidence of the continued progress we have made on the playing side, and looking to next season, Jim already has a large contingent of the current squad under contract.
With the addition of a few new players – Dumbarton striker Robert Thomson has signed a pre-contract agreement and is someone who has been a constant threat in this season’s Championship – I’m sure we can continue in the right direction.
The manager has the full support of the board and we have increased his budget for next term in order to build on the excellent progress made year upon year in the last three seasons.
It is not just on the park that we are developing, though. There is so much work going on behind the scenes as we build foundations for the future sustainability of the club, and I’d like to highlight a few examples:
Morton in the Community: We were awarded the prestigious Best Professional Club in the Community award by the SFA back in September and selected to host the Scottish Cup third round draw here at Cappielow on the back of this.
We currently have participants ranging from just two years old right up to 92 years young involved across our community programmes and initiatives.
Communication: Supporters asked for this to be much better and we responded by redeveloping our official club website and appointing a full-time media and communications officer in Jonathan Mitchell.
We also created a Supporter Liaison Officer post and appointed Craig Skinner (firstname.lastname@example.org) to the new role in order to further increase the lines of communication between the fans and the club.
Turnstiles: We are aware of the issues at the turnstiles on matchdays. To improve flow rates and speed up entry, we have just invested £120,000 on a new turnstile system.
Our current machines are almost 100 years old, the youngest dates to the 1920s, but the replacements will be installed over the summer ready for use next term, quickening entry in a safe, user-friendly manner.
Replica shirt sales: When I came onto the board I was told that we will only ever expect to sell 400 to 500 shirts per season.
However, with the supporters heavily involved in the selection process for our current home shirt, we have sold over 1200 replicas jerseys to date.
We took that a step further with our away kit, inviting fans to both design and select the shirt the team would wear on their travels – and we sold a fantastic 136 red tartan tops on the launch date alone.
It is also worth noting that we have sold over 450 to children under six and I believe this fact is a real positive sign for the future.
Stadium: Based on feedback from supporters gathered by our SLO Craig Skinner, we moved to enhance the atmosphere at Cappielow by creating a section for away fans within the Cowshed.
Pitch: Our pitch is one of our biggest assets, and we use it. The quality of Mark Farrell’s playing surface means it is in high demand and we have hosted a number of teams and tournaments here, totalling approximately 55 matches all in.
Celtic’s Under-20s staged Irn-Bru Cup, Development League, and three UEFA Youth League fixtures at Cappielow this season.
In March alone we hosted the Scotland versus England Under-18s schoolboy international as well as seeing three UEFA European Under-17 Championship elite round qualifying ties played here.
We know we have one of the best pitches around and invest to maintain this, including the purchase of a new state of the art SGL MU36 lighting rig in October.
Youth Development: A number of players made their top-team breakthrough this term, the most notable of whom was Jai Quitongo, who made 23 appearances and won a Scotland Under-21 cap before injury curtailed his season.
Scott Tiffoney, Lewis Strapp, Ben Armour also earned first-team debuts, while academy alumni such as Thomas O’Ware and Mark Russell completed another campaign as regulars.
Hospitality: We promoted Lesley Ann Webb to hospitality executive and revamped our matchday experience and branding in conjunction with sponsors McTear’s Auctioneers.
This saw uptake increase across our various lounges, with a number of fixtures completely sold out, in an area of our commercial operation that provides a vital income stream.
Player Kit Sponsors Presentation Evening: We welcomed our 2016/17 kit sponsors to the stadium for a special presentation evening in which they received their selected player’s shirt.
They were provided with a buffet then mingled with the full Morton squad, management team and staff before receiving their jersey, complete with certificate of authenticity, and having a commemorative picture taken by photographer Ross Cameron.
As I hope you can see from the projects mentioned above, the club is moving in the right direction – but these are only part of the full picture and there are many more in the pipeline.
While we understand we won’t always get everything right first time – a prime example being the segregation in the Cowshed – the board is 100 per cent committed to making the positive and ambitious changes required to push the club forward.
I can personally guarantee we will continue the hard work behind the scenes to establish a club Inverclyde can be very proud of.
Have a great summer but keep your eyes here on the official website and on our social media platforms for developments over the close season.
Thank you for your support this season!