Monday, 8 February 2010

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME...

Is there any way back for football?

Here's a long winded rant for a Monday evening!
We all know football isn't what it once was. SKY TV and The 'Premiership' put paid to that some years ago.
Now this horror money monster is really testing the patience of many. We've seen Liverpool and Manchester United fans as recently as this season protesting against their dubious American owners. If two of the biggest, most successful clubs in football fans' are worried what does that say about the rest of us?


Liverpool and Manchester United fans protest against their owners.

To compete in the premier these days clubs require a billionaire owner from overseas be it a Russian oil magnate or as an uber-rich Arab Prince's plaything!
Even at the lowly level of League One and League 2. No scrap that, it's Division 3 and Division 4 the knock on effect is evident. My club Stockport County are in a dreadful, sorry mess. In administration since last April ending one season with docked points and narrowly avoiding the drop, the following season (this current one) a write off before it's even begun. Relegation now inevitable as we lie 16 points from 'proper' safety. The situation we find ourselves in is thus - end this season still in administration and start the new one still in and we drop 4 or 5 divisions to a lowly non-league division. It's never happened before and many will argue it won't but that's the very real future we face unless someone bails us out. That's outlined in the Football League Rules.


And there's the problem, no one wants us. Well no one serious anyway. There's a cashless consortium based at the other end of the Country who are tied in rather dubiously to the surroundings of us first entering administration, if they get hold of us we'll fare not much better than we are now. Sure we'll avoid liquidation and remain in the football league, just. But how did we get to this point? We've always been the perennial strugglers, despite being probably the biggest town in the Country with a population of over 300,000 people from boundary to border. No one's wanted to watch us except a hardcore. Being in the shadow of the two Manchester clubs would always mean a struggle. United and their success is totally understandable, but City? A pantomime club who have always been rather jokey and indeed not too long ago were in the same division and then a division lower than us? Yeah for too long now the Spineless members of the Stockport public born and bred preferred to go there instead of supporting their local club. But still in the face of all that we managed to survive and indeed taste some real success at our level. Times were bleak in the late 70s and early 80s re-election not uncommon and many relegation battles were the 'norm.

Brendan Elwood came in and turned the club around, the appointment of the late great little Uruguayan legend Danny Bergara started a grand old period in the 90s. Further progression from Dave Jones with the mammoth season of 96-97 which saw us win Automatic promotion to the 'Championship' combined with almost getting to the League Cup final, dispatching several premiership teams on the way (Blackburn, West Ham, Southampton and almost Middlesbrough) We'd done it, it'd taken some years but by then despite football already tarnished by the SKY revolution it was still great times, certainly for a 16/17 year old.

Sure we had plenty of ups and downs and 4 Wembley heartaches. but it was a great, great era for us.


Brendan Elwood's arrival saw legendary manager Danny Bergara and then Dave Jones revitalise County.

Despite Dave Jones being pimped to then Premiership Southampton, our first season in the old '2nd division' saw us finish just 8 places away from the Premiership 'promised land' under Gary Megson. On the pitch everything was as good as it was going to get, though you did wonder to yourself if Jones had stayed and the players we lost were still there would we have tasted the premiership the next season? In my mind most definitely, no question it would've crippled us probably. Though our local rivals Burnley, Stoke and even Wigan all did it, we could've preceded them all by a few years! The crowds came but not as many as you'd expect, indeed there were several sell outs in the Div 1 days, but not every week. The chairman eventually started to lose interest, deciding to replace Gary Megson within the ranks by appointing Andy Kilner, promoting him from the Centre of Excellence was perhaps the first 'cheap option' sign that things were not going to be too rosy around the corner. He did alright despite being out of his depth, another win against City this time at Maine Road and keeping us up were decent memories for sure as was getting the best out of the young talent and the faltering players. However his second worst decision as chairman and owner was round the corner when he had the brainwave of appointing daft looking, laughing stock of a player Carlton Palmer as new manager.


Andy Kilner was promoted from within, then replaced with joke appointment Carlton Palmer, who made us a laughing stock!

Clearly by now he was getting desperate to offload us, sure he'd pumped money into the club and tasted success to a limit, he had of course had his money back and then some, that is clear to all. But his worst decision ever was not deciding it was time for him to move on but selling us up to Rugby Union. That day was to be one of the worst in our history. Sale Sharks came into town, a franchise rugby club turning up in Stockport - a town of no relevance to them as a club, but in their sport that's totally irrelevant. They needed a ground to progress and had tried and failed with Bury FC. We were perfect for Brian Kennedy and Sale Sharks. Though he'd have to convince the football fans he was in it for us too. So he did, originally setting up Cheshire Sport and claiming his passion didn't lie with his rugby club but he was a football fan first and foremost and couldn't wait to get going. However things didn't go to plan at Stockport, at first he appeared to try, it looked like things could be good, replacing the joke manager Palmer with respectable lower league manager and indeed ex playing legend (albeit at United) Sammy McIlroy. And giving him a bit of cash to spend. However success wasn't instant, far from it and he pulled the plug as quickly as he arrived. County were up for sale and no one wanted us, except the fans. And what was then seemingly a celebratory and historic day, we became the owners of our football club. Within a season or so we'd waved goodbye to McIlroy and his replacement Chris Turner had no choice but to part company after taking us to Macclesfield and getting raped 6-0 on the way to another relegation a successive one seemed imminent.


Cheshire Sport's appointed flops McIlroy and Turner

The new owners pulled off a masterstroke and appointed our own ex-playing legend Jim Gannon who's first task was to somehow against all the odds keep us in the football league. He did, the rest that followed appeared at the time to be fantastic! Way above and beyond what anyone expected. Seemingly sheer hard work was all it needed.
A rubbish squad transformed into near play off contenders going to the last day, just missing out. A youth setup to rival some premiership sides and everything appeared to be great again. The following season under Jim Gannon and Fan ownership we went all the way. We finally broke our Wembley hoodoo of Played 4 - Lost 4 we'd turned it all the way around after 5 or 6 seasons of misery and were back, or seemingly so. It was good to be a County fan again, it never felt the same as a teenager in the mid-90s, football had been tainted, but still felt good non-the-less.

But then, without warning the shit unravelled and it was a big fat, fan hitting, steaming pile too, with new surprises at every turn. As fans running the club we'd seemingly lost all traces of professionalism and at some point decided not to stick to budgets and financial constraints and stopped paying the taxman! To put it frankly we imploded within ourselves. We also embarrassed ourselves to many people and other clubs taking the piss of their good fortunes with our GROUND FOR A POUND scheme to try and buy our ground back. Worst though was the fact we were supposed to be self-sufficient, no secrets - run by the fans and not at the whim of some owner. So it came to huge shock when it emerged we'd signed some dodgy loan in secret with a property development company, who'd secured it against the clubs bank account. That loan of just £300,000 allegedly introduced and setup by the man who now fronts a consortium to try and take over us was the beginning of the end, as the company put us in administration. The worst to come of that was the stuff our potentially greatest ever manager had built up was all gone, the development squad, the network of scouting and of course his managerial prowess as he and his team were all sacked! Made redundant by the appointed administrators! An absolute disgrace, actually incredibly hard to believe was actually happening. And for me it was the final insult.



Somehow in Summer the would be owner was allowed to come in and sign a few not good enough ex players to make up a threadbare squad of all the talent we'd lost and appoint Gary Ablett as manager, looking back he never owned the club or was even close to at that point and had as much right appointing a manager as I would've done.
It was an outrage and I'd made my decision the day we went into administration and then sacked our manager that it was the final straw for me and I couldn't go again or to football in general until something gives, something nationally - a revolution of sorts. It was and is difficult some weeks, something you've done for 20 years week in week out countrywide every Saturday to just stop is tough. Truth is though not as much as I'd thought, I found myself in the latter months choosing to stay in the pub as our ground, our history at Edgeley Park had gone, spoilt and soiled by this vile rugby club, our identity was in tatters, it was no longer enjoyable and felt very false. They emptied our board room of it's history, tearing down precious pictures and items and throwing them in a skip, they threw us out of our own club shop. Everyone's fed up of it though, football has had it's day, this fabricated over hyped by TV, for ridiculously over paid players is shit, don't stand up, It's not what I grew up on at all. Not the national game for the working class it should be. No terraces, out of town soulless pieces of shite devoid of character, history or atmosphere masquerading as football grounds - with tickets 3 or 4 times the price they should be. The ridiculous over zealous joke policing we've seen enforced. Long term banning orders and jail for the minor of skirmishes and scuffles, the sort that wouldn't see an eyelid batted anywhere else.

Whether you're a full blown hooligan or over zealous straight member, this is taking it all a bit too far, no?

People need to make a stand against having the piss royally taken out of them, then and only then could we see something that resembled the great sport we all grew up on again. People aren't happy paying £60 for a football ticket, but still do, they need to stop, even just once. I can and do go to the cinema some Saturday's instead it cost me £5 a couple of weeks ago to watch the award winning epic A Prophet, it would've cost me £17 to watch my team carry on their 16 game win less run against some no mark side. Will it happen? I do hope so, though despite the mumblings now coming from the bigger clubs I can't see anything of a grand nature which is needed to happen. Would be great if someone arranged it, sorted it a national boycott of football day. Make a stand, they couldn't cover that one up could they?
Back to my club, who do I blame for our swift and dreadful demise? The fans who messed it up? Sure they take a big portion of the blame, their actions put our future, our 126 years of history in jeopardy and they should hold their hands up for that, be accountable even, as it is they've got away with it. But on the other hand I know they were largely meaning well, somehow trying to keep us afloat because the deal they had being given from Mr Brian Kennedy was simply not sustainable, it was choking us. We made nothing from the Conference and Banqueting facilities we built ourselves, they took over and charge us extortionate rent each year and we couldn't compete, not without a benefactor. Indeed the offer they've 'offered' this time round to the would be owners is even worse. So in our case Mr Kennedy and Sale Sharks are largely responsible for the rapid downfall of SCFC.
Will they ever be made to be accountable, do they even care? We've lost around 2500 fans since going into administration, will I come back? I don't know. I know as it is I just don't want to. I'll always be a County fan, but football as it is now, this monster, it's not fun, it's dead to me. It was already going that way, but Sale Sharks and Brian Kennedy were the shit coloured icing. They don't even provide a safe playable pitch for us. Such is the contempt.


An anti Kennedy leaflet.

Premiership match tickets, for forty fucking quid I'd expect to stand up as much as I like.


The 'thin blue line' at Wycombe's Adams Park after a small celebratory pitch 'invasion' following our Play Off equalising goal.
Don't dare stand up, don't dare sing, stop enjoying yourselves whatever you do!


Over zealous Stewards supposedly keeping the peace often make matters ten times worse with their pathetic jobsworth forced powers.

Myself and other Stockport fans join in the walk from Stockport to Manchester demonstration against the administrators.

It is for many others too, it's going that way, nationally people are getting fed up of it and they need to. It's long overdue. The fabric has gone that will never be back, these alien stadia have destroyed that. Is there any way back for football as we knew it?

These video's despite being a few years old sums up football in it's current state as the bag of shite it is...






2 comments:

  1. Excellent post, spot on. Being a Port Vale fan I can appreciate the feeling of being shafted by a dodgy board and the administrators. Thankfully we still have our ground with its tradition and idiosyncrasies but going to places like Shrewsbury with their plastic, soulless, out-of-town ground isn't a whole lot of fun and paying twenty bastard quid to see Vale play Rochdale at Spotland just wasn't on the cards either.

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  2. Football is definitely on it's last legs as it is. It needs a full blown revolution to repair it, if it isn't too late. It's certainly no fun for the lower league clubs.

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