When I decided to get involved with Biggleswade United I asked my good friend and former coach at Valencia, Pako Ayestaran, if he knew of a young coach with a vision that would be interested in joining us in our new project.
One of his assistants recommended Fran Constancio who was in Birmingham at the time taking some time off after nearly a decade of football involvement at Valencia and was looking to try to build himself a new life in the UK.
He knew nothing about me or the club but I convinced him to come over, first as a member of the first team coaching crew although it wasn’t long before I realised that where his real strength lay would be with the running of a new Academy that we were planning at the club.
He totally embraced the notion of trying to build something from scratch, from the ground level. At the start, we had just a first team and a reserves side and he leaves the club just some three and a half seasons later with 13 sides in its Academy catering for more than 150 youngsters aged from seven to 16 as well as a Wildcat Soccer Club for girls aged from 5-11.
What we have in place now – despite a constant battle for better facilities – is due testament to his tireless efforts that have produced an Academy with coaches completely committed to the job in hand and one that is married to a style that is in evidence throughout all of our sides here at Biggleswade United.
In truth, we have got one more year out of Fran than I felt we would. I have sensed for a while that he was looking to move on because he was getting restless. As the Academy grew he was finding it harder to do everything that was necessary to keep it going but he stayed on out of respect for me and also because he did not want to be thought to be letting down the youngsters in his charge.
He leaves an amazing legacy at the club and, after a short break, will almost certainly try to find himself an opening within the ranks of a professional club’s academy.
We will all miss his judgement and astuteness. Personally, I will miss his wise counsel on all matters football, but over and above that I will miss his friendship, loyalty and understanding.
We will, of course, struggle to replace him, but replace him we will. Meanwhile, as a parting gift to the club, he has already started to help us put volunteers in place at the Academy, many of whom will be responsible for performing any number of the various and profoundly vital jobs that he was carrying out to ensure the Academy could continue to function.
We will soon be explaining how we will set the Academy up post-Fran although it will run in much the same way as it does now. But, for now, it is time to say our goodbyes, offer our thanks for everything he has done to take this club along this amazing journey that it continues to travel on, and to wish him every success for the future.
I know that everyone will give him the send off he deserves at the Academy’s Christmas Party. My only regret is that personal reasons will make it impossible for me to attend.