Cards’ chief executive opens up on Dowson sacking

CARDS’ chief executive John Katz says that sacked boss Alan Dowson has every right to be angry about the way he was removed from the role.

Dowson’s exit due to a “prolonged run of poor form” was communicated publicly by the club on Monday evening, 28 February.

Woking FC chief executive John Katz opens up about the sacking of club manager Alan Dowson

The gaffer was told the news in a phone call beforehand. And after nearly four years of service, Dowson was left fuming over how his stint ended.

Katz empathises, while also taking full responsibility for what happened.

In a long and frank interview with the News & Mail, Katz said: “I was really disappointed with how the message was delivered – it was not my preferred method.

“So I understand why he is angry. And he has every right to be.

“There was an overwhelming feeling that time was of the essence in delivering the message.

“In this era of the internet, there was concern that somehow he would find out through other channels.

“But for me, it should have been done face to face. He was our gaffer, but he is also a friend.

“So I understand why he’s angry. I think it’s justifiable to be angry about the way the message was delivered.

“It was a board decision and I have to stand behind decisions that the board made. I don’t have to agree with every decision that the board makes. That’s the nature of a board – it’s a democratic process.

“It’s the most difficult thing that I’ve gone through since I’ve been here. You’re supposed to take emotion out of the business side, but the emotion is real that he’s gone.

“I think as time passes, it’ll be easier [to speak with Dowson]. We know he’s furious as to how this went down.

“And as chief executive and his friend, regardless of how the decision was made, that’s on me. I’m not here to point fingers or name names. But the person who’s accountable for it is me.”

Despite regret with how the process was handled, Katz is clear that the club’s on-pitch form meant that something had to be done.

The Cards under Dowson got off to a good start to the season, but tailed off dramatically thereafter, with just five wins in 24 matches in all competitions from beating Dagenham & Redbridge on 5 October until the Geordie’s removal.

Katz said: “We talked about results constantly. And we had to get better. It’s football – it’s a results-driven business.

“In his last five matches, it was two points out of 15. In his last 10 matches, it was eight points out of 30. It was an ongoing concern – the form just wasn’t there.

“This is new for me. In my former business [in minor league baseball], I had teams that lost 100 games out of 140. And no-one’s on the hot seat, because it’s about development. Here, our fans demand results. And if you go through an extended period without results, then you have to make change when there’s time to do something about it.

“I wouldn’t say that there was a tipping point. After Stockport County [on 19 February], I felt like we had really turned a corner and that all the patience had paid off. Stockport were lucky to win that match.

Caretaker boss Ian Dyer is in charge while the search for a new manager is underway

“Then against Dagenham & Redbridge [on 22 February], we came back and got the equaliser [with 10 men]. It felt like a win.

“So you’ve got all that wind in your sails and all that momentum. And it was gone against Notts County [in the 2-0 home loss on 26 February].

“I know we had injuries – that’s just the rub. From a budget standpoint, we don’t have the depth of a club that spends £3million a year on wages. It’s just an unfortunate reality. I still believe we have a very good team, though. I just think we haven’t seen them at their best. And I’m hopeful that there’s a turn coming because I believe in the players.”

There had been a growing sense of fan unrest during the club’s dismal run of form, with social media and online forum Cardboard regularly seeing long threads questioning the team’s direction.

But Katz said that didn’t play any part in his thinking on Dowson’s position.

He said: “I won’t speak for anyone else on the board. But for me, it certainly did not. We just got to that point where we had to do something.

“I don’t think anyone could ever say I didn’t back him until it was completely untenable. This is a three-year plan to get to the Football League, and I don’t think it would have been beneficial to continue along those lines –  not for the players, not for the manager, not for the supporters. It was time to take action.

“As difficult as the decision was for the board to take, it was for the good of the club. I’m gutted – but this isn’t a business where you can just rely on sentimentality.

“I will always back Dowse because I think he’s a winner. I think it just didn’t happen this year. I wish him the best; I always have and I always will.

“I could go through the accolades. He got hired after relegation [from the National League] and brought us back up. We got [Premier League] Watford in the third round of the FA Cup at home, then the FA Trophy semi-final last year in the midst of the most challenging circumstances, budget-wise, player-wise, that you could imagine.

“Those are things to be celebrated. Those memories and accolades belong to Dowse and his players.

“I’ve not even mentioned everything he’s done in this community for this community. Whoever comes in has those shoes to fill.”

And finding that managerial replacement is Katz’s next task. He revealed he has already begun receiving numerous applications for the role, and is starting to work out what he is looking for.

He said: “We’ll be devising what we want to see. I don’t know that we can dictate a formation or a style.

“I think it’s going to come down to the managerial candidates to convince us that his style of play is going to be the right style of play for this football club, that it’s going to be exciting for our fans week in, week out and that it will get the best out of the players we have.

“Whether somebody comes in before the end of the season or after, I’ve got every confidence in [caretaker boss] Ian Dyer and our backroom staff that we can make it through to the end of the season and pick up points on the way.

“It’s not going to be a rushed process, because we believe in [keeper coach] Matt Winter, [strength and conditioning coach] Clarkie [James Clark] and Mia Dempsey-Smith, our assistant physio.

“They’re phenomenal people. We’ve got to put faith in them and we’ve got to support them, which is what we’re doing. Right now, the focus is – as it’s always been – to put a product out on the pitch that our fans can be proud of.”

The sacking of Dowson also contributed to the resignations of chairman Rosemary Johnson and football liaison director Kelvin Reay.

Reay – who made the phone call to Dowson to inform him he was fired – told the News & Mail last week that he is not yet ready to comment on recent events. But Johnson said that her resignation was “not about Dowse leaving the club but how decisions are reached”.

Katz said: “I’m disappointed they’ve left. I’ve always admired Rosemary. I will continue to admire her. You don’t have to look much further for someone synonymous with Woking. Her accolades are so far and wide in this community that not having her on our board will be a loss.

“But we look forward to seeing her and [son] Matthew at all the matches because she is a fan of the club.

“Kelvin was a dynamic personality. He brought so much to the club. He was part of the team that was instrumental in bringing Dowse here.

“So I understand. I don’t begrudge either of the decisions they’ve made.”

Recommended For You

About the Author: Editorial Team