Tunbridge excited to be back at Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 11:30 03 August 2018
A professional football club in 2018 needs a dynamic CEO as much as it requires a successful manager.
Stevenage FC are lucky to have both as while Dino Maamria has spent the summer reshaping his squad into one he believes can compete in the higher echelons of League Two, Boro boosted their club off the field by headhunting Alex Tunbridge from Newport County AFC.
Canny chairman Phil Wallace identified 31-year-old home-town boy Tunbridge as the perfect man to rejuvenate Stevenage away from the cut and thrust of the fourth tier of the English game.
Successful businessman Wallace was determined to get his man, and did, with Tunbridge starting his role this summer – and the Stevenage supremo’s praise ringing in his ears, with the chairman hailing Tunbridge’s appointment as vital to strengthening the club’s off-field team.
Tunbridge is delighted to be back, even if he greatly enjoyed his spell in South Wales after joining the Exiles in January 2017 and speaking to the Comet he said: “It’s very exciting to be back at the club. I’ve worked here before for eight years, for the foundation, up at Shephalbury.
“I’ve got a good understanding of the club. I’ve supported the club since I was 10 years old.
“I’ll be looking to use my experiences at Newport here. It was a difficult decision to come back.
“When you go through what I went through at Newport – the great escape [the club avoided relegation from League Two on the last day of the 2016-17 season] and the turnaround on and off the pitch – made it a hard decision as much as I love Stevenage.
“Newport is a supporter-owned club embedded in its community and it was difficult to leave that from an emotional perspective. That said, I think Stevenage has great potential and is a great platform to develop and take that next step.”
Tunbridge rejoined Boro after an impressive stint as chief executive officer of Newport, including playing a large part in the Rodney Parade outfit’s academy achieving category three status, resulting in funding injections rising from £140,000 to £410,000 from the EFL.
He was also influential in increasing attendances by 22 per cent during his time at the club, as average crowds rose from 2,861 to 3,489 – a fact that also attracted Wallace to lure him back.
But what is the secret?
Modest Alex replies: “There’s no secret – it’s just hard work and togetherness.
“Luck is a big part of it. For the team to survive on the last day of the season became a catalyst to drive the club forward in terms of a top-10 finish last year and also off the field the FA Cup run helped.
“The main thing to do first of all is make sure the key staples and infrastructure are in place. You can always look to improve efficiency where you can do.
“It’s also very important to engage with our community. Not just on a Saturday. I mean Monday through to Sunday – 24/7/. We also want to improve the experience we offer to supporters at the game. “
Prior to joining Newport, Tunbridge had a sojourn in the USA after leaving Broadhall Way following nearly a decade’s service as head of the foundation and managing director of the academy between 2009-16.
The club are set for a bright future under dynamic new boss Maamria, along with the construction of a new North Stand intended to boost capacity, revenue streams and as Tunbridge says, increase community engagement.
He added: “The new North Stand is the game changer.
“It’s not just a facility. What it will allow us to do is look at ourselves as a business. Where can we improve?
“What we’ll also be doing over the next few weeks is reaching out to fans and try to understand how we can improve that experience, including online ticketing.
“I think the word is venue. It’s a community stadium. It’s for everyone. Whether it be a place for the foundation to engage with kids after school, education through to business meetings. It’s up to us to make people realise it’s for them as a key venue in our community.
“I’ve already met with Dino and we’re scheduling some time for the manager and players to visit schools and engage more in our community.”