And so the Brimingham City FC ‘sale’ saga goes on.. and on.. and off.. and on.. and off.. and on-off.. Well, you get the drift.
As I tried to get my head around the latest announcement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange by Blues’ stricken parent company, it struck me that the game had not so much sold its soul as entered into an eternal Faustian pact with the devil incarnate.
Football is one of the world’s greatest creations. It’s the beautiful game, a universal language which knows no geographical borders, a passion shared by millions across the planet, an escape route from the tedium of getting through another UK winter, a lifelong repository of decades of memories which will go with the holders to their graves.
There are people out there who do not like football, indeed some who hate it.
And I can fully understand their view, given some of the characters football attracts.
Many of the big figures in the game grate somewhat with me – even though they’ve done nothing wrong. I find the likes of Joey Barton, Sam Allardyce, Neil Warnock, Stan Collymore, Alan Green, Jonathan Pearce, Robbie Savage more than slightly annoying, and has there ever been a more self-satisfied individual clogging up the TV studios than Gary Lineker?
But, ultimately, the ghastly egofest and patronising ‘all lads together’ chuckle factory that is so often mistaken for serious football analysis is a small price to pay for a lifetime’s devotion to the global game.
The late Sir Bobby Robson often mangled his diction and mixed his metaphors but he was spot on with a wonderful quote which was recycled recently following the banning of local football journalists by a regime controlled by the odious Mike Ashley.
Sir Bobby, one of the greatest footballing knights of them all, once said: “What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It is not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes.
“It is the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It is a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at the hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”
As a gruesome counterpoint to one of the most poetic eulogies to the game ever delivered by a true football man, now consider the following case studies of the sort of people football routinely attracts.
I gleaned the following from a cult website called Midfield Dynamo, which listed a string of notorious football club owners and chairmen. Read, digest and weep....
“1995 Ken Richardson (Doncaster Rovers) hired two local crooks to burn down the main stand. One, an ex-SAS man, left his mobile phone at the scene and even the South Yorks plod managed to rumble the protagonists.
“Richardson was found guilty in 1999 and jailed for four years. Other stunts pulled included attempting to sell the ground even though it was owned by the council and his eccentric managerial appointment of a certain Mark Weaver who’d previously run the club shop at Stockport.
“Darren Brown (Chesterfield). Brown ‘bought’ Chesterfield, a well run and profitable club, with money borrowed from the previous owner. He proceeded to run the club into the ground by robbing them of around £1m to fund a lavish lifestyle and prop up his other ailing sports clubs.
“His extravagances included using club funds to buy a £2,500 lawnmower and paying the council tax of numerous American ice hockey players. The Serious Fraud Office investigated Brown and he was found guilty and sentenced to four years for his plundering of the club in 2004.
“Anton Johnson (Rotherham) – Johnson was a scoundrel who ran Rotherham into the ground in the early 1980s before owning Southend, without giving up his holdings at Millmoor. He illegally owned two clubs. In 1985 the FA banned him from ever being involved in football again.
“Naturally he washed up at Scarborough in 1998 after an abortive attempt to buy Doncaster off our old pal, Ken Richardson. Scarborough were relegated from the Football League in 1999.
“Freddie Shepherd (Newcastle) This man really showed off his true colours, and sadly much else, when he was the victim of a News of the World sting, where he laughed at the fans that bought overpriced shirts and slated Newcastle women. All this from the comfortable vantage point of a Far East brothel.
“George Reynolds (Darlington) – This ex-con was a self-made multi-millionaire who washed up at Darlington in 1999 promising to take them into the Premiership. Bizarrely, he then built the club a superb 27,000-seater stadium. Staggering, as the club’s average crowd was around 4,000. He totally failed to bring in the players necessary for progress and saddled the club with massive debts and a white elephant of a stadium. In 2005 after leaving the club, he was convicted of tax evasion and was sentenced to three years. A classic rags to riches to rags story.”
That’s just a random internet search example of a few charmless scoundrels and chancers who have befouled our national game. Shepherd at Newcastle was not a jailbird, but he was hardly Sir Stanley Matthews either.
As the Carson Yeung trial drags on in Hong Kong, with its outcome awaited by tens of thousands of Blues fans whose daily lives revolve around the fortunes of their beloved club, it’s moot to consider that there’s only another six months before the end of the season... and then it’s the World Cup.