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Open statement to Prestatyn Town FC supporters from former manager Neil Gibson

Neil Gibson (left) with skipper Dave Hayes at a press conference following Prestatyn’s 2013-14 Europa League tie in Croatia

I hope this message finds you all well in these very difficult times that we are living through.

I’m sure you are all missing having the opportunity to go down and watch our fantastic club and football in general at this moment.

It is truly heartbreaking for me to end my association with Prestatyn Town Football Club over the last few days and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all properly.

I have been overwhelmed by the positive support and messages received from supporters, players and staff not only from our great club but from all over the football community.

There have been a number of inaccuracies reported on the reasons for me leaving that I will address through the appropriate channels in due course, but this is to thank you all and reflect on my time at the club.

If you will allow me to reminisce and add some historical context, many of you will know my affiliation with our great football club spans 4 decades.

Starting in the 80’s watching Phil Merrick’s team as an eager ball boy and mascot being thrown over Bastion Gardens’ fences to retrieve balls with Leigh Williams, helping out in whichever way I was told my by parents, who were keeping the club running at the time.

Into the 90’s as a teenage supporter watching every week home and away, heroes of mine like Steve Lewis, Ian Lewis, Dale Milne, Steve Rees, Ritchie Semple and Ian Grimes to name only a few, great successful teams managed by Tony Thackeray and Gwyn Jones, Eddie Garrett, Ricky Westwell, Allan Bickerstaff and Chris Morrell.

The club was in the very safe hands of people like Tony Thackeray, Henry Porter and Mr Prestatyn himself, Gareth Savage.

I learned valuable lessons from these people about the history of our club and how to be proud and protective of it. Lessons that I stick with to this day.

When I returned to the club in the mid 2000’s after playing professionally, it was solely for the reason that if I was playing in Wales, Prestatyn was the only club I wanted to play for.

Taking the decision at 24 to leave the National Conference (as it was then) to play tier 3 in Wales was effectively closing the door on my footballing career to instead try to achieve something even more special with my hometown club.

Neil (second left) celebrates an Ian Griffiths goal (No 9) for Prestatyn with Russ Jones and Dave Hayes

The dream was always to get Prestatyn Town FC into the Welsh Premier League.

There were enjoyable seasons under Martin ‘box’ Jones and Lennie Dunster followed by Dave Fuller where we reached tier 2.

Dave decided to step down and Tony Thackeray offered me the job – I was sceptical.

At 26 was I was too young? but I knew we had a very talented young local team who had formed a bond at Prestatyn with the dream of getting our club into the Welsh Premier League.

I felt all these lads were more than good enough but no other club was affording them the opportunity to play WPL. So we decided we’d have to get there together ourselves.

Neil (middle row – furthest left) celebrates perhaps the club’s greatest day ever – winning the 2012-13 Welsh Cup against Bangor City. Pic: Hollie Jones

Wonderful and talented local Prestatyn players Russell Jones, Stephen Hoult, Jon Fisher Cooke, David Hayes, Ian Griffiths, Bevan Humphreys and the Davies brothers became the core of our team with young players being developed such as Michael Parker, Jon Hill-Dunt and Jack Lewis.

My philosophy has always been to develop and give opportunities to young local players. With 73 local players coming through the academy to play in the first team over the 15 years is something I’m extremely proud of.

Seeing three generations of a family play for Town: from watching their dads in the 80’s & 90’s, to playing with them in the 2000’s to managing the sons or grandsons in this decade really is what Prestatyn Town Football club was always about for me.

I wanted supporters to have an affinity with their club, seeing them in the high street shopping in the week and watching them play on the pitch at the weekend, followed by a beer together in the clubhouse.

Neil Gibson in action for Wales U21 v Armenia U21 at Penydarren Park, Merthyr Tydfil. (Photo by David Davies – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Of course, we have brought in players from outside the area in the last decade to support the local players and help them to be successful, but when recruiting these players we’ve operated on 2 principles: 1) Are they considerably better than the local player in their position and 2) most importantly, are they going to be good people who can help teach, advise and improve the local players?

Understanding the culture and history of our club. In players such as Andy Parkinson, Jason Price, Gaz Wilson, Paul O’Neill, Jack Kenny, Ross Stephens, Steve Rogers and Myles Hart I’m sure you will agree they’ve done that.

We are a welcoming football club and community. We are a family. Many of our most loyal fans come from outside our area but have an affinity with the football club and, if they understand what our club is about, we welcome them in and they become part of the family.

Hopefully that has given context to why I manage Prestatyn Town and how heartbreaking it is for me to have felt I had no other option but to leave with recent changes. This is not a decision I wanted to make.

There’s an awful lot of people I need to thank……

First of all our fantastic loyal supporters and volunteers, your support of me has been overwhelming and is what drove me on to try to make our club successful.

I’ve never once taken your support for granted and I meant it every time I said that “to achieve anything at Prestatyn, no one person is more important than the next. Everyone has their part to play and we needed you all”.

Never was that more true than pulling together to save our club from a tax bill or standing together in Wrexham to win the Welsh Cup. Supporters and volunteers are the club and I’m extremely grateful to you all.

I’d like to thank everybody who has played a part over the years in running our academy, all voluntarily giving up their time for a philosophy and pathway they believed in, which was developing young local players from Under 8’s into the First Team.

I’d especially like to thank Steve Giblin, Sian Preater, Anthony Gomez for their excellent work running the academy alongside myself in our voluntary roles; in the last few years it has gone from strength to strength.

All the academy coaches have been fantastic with me and gone over and above for the children, myself and the club, despite competing against funded academies every week.

A special thank you to you all and it saddens me to see these people no longer involved at the club, especially people like Oli Williams who undoubtedly was the future of our club.

My final thank you must of course go to all the players and backroom staff, who have worked with me and played under me during my time at the club.

I can’t thank you enough for your efforts, professionalism, dedication, loyalty, commitment and friendship.

I know, I can be demanding of standards so it’s not easy at times but sharing this journey with people who have become lifelong friends is what makes Prestatyn Town FC special and worthwhile.

A special mention must go to the players, my assistant Lee Jones and the rest of my staff from the most recent season and a half, you have been magnificent and an absolute pleasure to work with.

To go from bottom of the league 7 points adrift in October 2018 to league winners by 16 points in April 2020, you all deserve enormous credit for that.

No other club accumulated more points than us in each of the 2 seasons since we came back in October 2018.

That’s some achievement and is testament to how hard you work on the training pitch and implementing the game plan we give you.

A final thought, I’ve always maintained that it’s the good people who make a football club, they are the spirit of a club. You can’t achieve anything without building the best team of good people.

Whether that’s on the pitch or off it, Prestatyn Town Football Club is about the people, we are one big family from the players, to volunteers, to supporters and everyone in between.

Nobody more important than anybody else. Sadly a lot of those people are no longer involved at the club.

I hope you all know, just how much Prestatyn Town FC means to me and how much of a privilege it has been for myself as a fan to manage my hometown team.

I hope I did you proud showing the passion, commitment, dedication and effort to make your club successful.

We’ve had a roller-coaster ride and one that I didn’t feel ready to end but sadly other people had other ideas.

During our ride though, I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you saw players playing for the badge of your club giving their all each week win, lose or draw.

Neil in action against HNK Rijeka of Croatia

Three Tier 2 league titles, eight seasons in Welsh Premier League, 3 top 6 finishes in WPL, Welsh Cup winners, North Wales Coast Cup winners, progressing through a European tie.

Giving 73 local lads the opportunity to play in the first team from the academy amassing over 2000 appearances along the way. Rebuilding 4 teams through the years.

Hopefully you all feel it’s been an enjoyable ride and we’ve entertained you with our high tempo attacking entertaining football philosophy.

I was always very much aware that I was extremely privileged and honoured to manage your/our football club and I was solely the custodian of it.

Something I reminded the players about was that they were the custodians of the shirt.

It was our duty to do what was best for the club following in the footsteps of the great people I mentioned above, and hopefully you feel we did that.

However, if Mr Prestatyn himself Gareth Savage said I did a good job then that’ll always be good enough for me.

Thank you once again for all the fantastic supportive messages I’ve received from you all, I’m very humbled by them. Stay safe.

We were Town…

Take care

Gibbo

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