Although dreams of bringing back an academy remain a long way off, Wycombe Wanderers chairman Andrew Howard hopes the club can soon operate with effectively a reserve team once more.
The club announced at last night's supporters' trust meeting that they been able to use their sell-on from Jordan Ibe's move from Liverpool to Bournemouth to pay off the long-standing debt to former owner Steve Hayes early.
While this still makes the Chairboys far from being cash rich, it does loosen the noose slightly, and if there's any left over once other debts have continued to be serviced, and facilities invested in, Howard would like to see manager Gareth Ainsworth be able to do with with development players.
The club have operated without an academy , youth or reserve team for some years now, and while the running costs of an academy keep such a vision a pipe dream , a squad of development players playing regular games is more feasible.
Howard said: “One of the core objectives is building the stability of the club and the club's ability to trade as a business, and if you put an academy in place now you're looking at a couple of hundred thousands pounds a year, and then you're looking at five or six years before you see any benefit from it in terms of the club either having players or the potential for them moving on.
“But I think there are other opportunities, and fans musn't underestimate how important the likes of Max Muller and Scott Kashket are to the future of clubs our size, where rather than having an academy, you have a group that gives you a strong enough squad, but also to develop the youth as they come in.
“When you fight against the bigger academies, you have to find other ways to do it, and the balance for a club our size is between sitting with an Egon Ronay pie and watching crap football or sitting with a polystrene cup of bovril and seeing better football. The compromise at a smaller club is money going into the facilities to allow people to watch the game.
“If you get to the stage where you have a little bit of money beyond that, and that is ring-fenced and dedicated, then I think there's a pool of players out there who can be brought here and developed, and Gareth and his team have a proven record in that department.
“If we can increase our squad size with those people – and I don't like to say B team – but just having enough players to have two teams. Gareth this week brought in a Premiership referee and we were able to play an 11-a-side game, which was great.
“Don't underestimate how important it is to have the lads not involved playing regular football, and if they're not out on loan, we need to develop a system whereby they're playing. We're lucky that with the relationships we've got, we've had a lot of clubs say to us bring a side up and they can play within our structure.”
Howard did, however, warn supporters already speculating over who the club could sign that there would not suddenly be a cash pot available for Ainsworth to spend in the transfer market.
He added: “We haven't suddenly got money to throw around. Like most clubs, we run on a deficit basis and rely on football fortunes to keep us going. It's fundamentally a trust run club. We don't have the funding from any one individual, the reality is it's just another football fortune which allows us to continue and build.
“Trading-wise, I think we can cover a chunk of that deficit, but the reality is we have to cover the rest through football fortunes, and I'd be horrified if anyone thought a bit of cash has got the club into a different position. It's just allowed the club to survive longer.
“But the impact on the club is still dramatic as the long term objective was to pay Steve back over many years on an interest free basis, and we were paying it back every month, so it takes that pressure off. It also brings to an end a bit of an era – Steve has been a great supporter of the club, and hopefully he can know turn up as a fan.”