Terrace Thoughts 13, 11/01/19

I must start with apologies and thanks – Steve Wiles correctly pointed out that I should have referred to Sheffield United, not Wednesday, as the scene of Steve Howard’s two goals on 29 December 2012. Thanks Steve – it was indeed a great day out, topped by Richie’s goal and our spoiling their celebrations of the 150th anniversary of football being played at Bramall Lane.

Well, 2019 has already been an eventful year. After the relative euphoria of a much improved performance and result against Gateshead on the First, we slumped to defeat at home to Maidstone on the Fifth. Now I’m not going to pass any comments on these results. Why? Because we’ve been told that we know as much as can be produced on the rear of a postage stamp, and that we are negative and must be positive. Frankly I care little if these supposed statements are the result of poor journalism or are otherwise being misinterpreted: I’m a paying punter (although that may change) and I can have an opinion, even if my soccer career didn’t get me to St George’s Park (the one near Burton on Trent!); and I have spent my life working towards an age when being ‘curmudgeonly’ is expected.

But 2019 has brought some interesting publicity for some football club trusts…..

Everyone will have picked up on the ongoing efforts of the Blackpool Supporters Trust and the partial boycott of the FA Cup game against Arsenal. Folk know my views on the negative impact of TV on the lower echelons of the football pyramid and I was appalled at the decision of BT Sport to televise this match, resulting in more coffers for the Oystons.

The Blackpool Supporters Trust website is well worth a visit – not only is it extremely well written and presented, but it raises interesting parallels with our own Trust’s work; in fact the first item that I came across on the Blackpool website was ‘Has your membership expired? The Trust is reliant on your support’ and the second was ‘Not a member? Join your fellow supporters.’

Many Trust memberships are coming up for renewal and I urge everyone with any interest in Pools to renew – or join if you haven’t previously. It is imperative that we have a financially sound and well managed Trust in place – to step in if necessary (and we must not fool ourselves about the amount of our cash that the Trust will need in such circumstances) and, in the meantime, to support and challenge the owners to the necessary degree.

The Blackpool site has a weekly column (which is a much better read than this), the most recent of which is entitled ‘The Man in the High Penthouse; an alternate history of Blackpool FC’. Well worth a read. We all know, to a greater or lesser degree, about the situation regarding the current Blackpool owner and the treatment of certain fans – and my lawyer won’t let me say anymore – but it does make you look at our own situation and you must agree that it’s not too bad. By comparison.

Like many a Poolie I have mixed memories of Blackpool – from the despair of losing to two goals from Brett Omerod in the play-off first leg on 13 May 2001 (a great Pools side including Darren Knowles, Paul Stephenson and Tony Lormor – just three heroes in a classy Pools team) to 10 September 2005 when we saw goals from Steven Istead and Antony Sweeney drive a team including the likes of Dimi, Mark Tinkler, Darren Williams and David Foley (off the bench for Mark Proctor) to victory. That game was also notable as Michael Maidens’ third appearance in a Pools first team and saw some significant, and very effective, line-up changes from Neale Cooper.

And yes, the second leg of that 2001 play-off was equally dismal when we lost 3-1 and Jermaine Easter was rightly sent off for one of the worst fouls I’ve seen at the Vic.

Apologies to our DoF, I can’t have these sorts of opinions due to my postage stamp knowledge but, see Dickie, I’m trying to be positive!

Another bit of Trust news which caught my eye this week relates to our old friends at Bolton Wanderers FC. I’ve written numerous paragraphs about the sad situation at Bolton, and the behaviour of Chairman Ken Anderson, but this week we must raise a glass to Dale Vince, the owner of Forest Green Rovers FC.

Vince has accused Anderson of reneging on a deal to buy FGR striker Christian Doidge and has:

  • Said that the EFL’s owners and directors’ tests should prevent those who have previously been disqualified as company directors from taking over a club (Anderson was disqualified for eight years in 2005);
  • Produced a T-Shirt carrying the message ‘No Ken Do’ and is encouraging Bolton fans to buy these shirts, from which he will be donating all profits to Bolton Wanderers Supporters’ Trust; and
  • Garnered messages of support from across the wider football community such as this from Andy Holt, Accrington Stanley’s chairman‘If we don’t stand up for what is right then there will be no change’.

Full marks to Dale Vince and the likes of Andy Holt – this shows the football community at its best. See, I’m being positive again.

I’ve recently been following some interesting discussions on the darlo uncovered board with regard to ‘fan ownership’ models; there seems to be an increasing number of contributors arguing that fan-only ownership simply cannot generate the funds necessary to run a ground and a team and so it is interesting to welcome AFC Telford to Fortress Vic tomorrow.

AFC Telford started life as Wellington Town FC in 1892 and changed its name to Telford United in 1969: sadly Telford United folded in May 2004.

AFC Telford is a phoenix club, formed by supporters in 2004 following the demise of their team. The football club website has a section entitled ‘Summer of 2004’ which describes the role of Telford United Independent Supporters Association in creating and then developing AFC Telford – well worth a read – and it demonstrates the importance of fund raising and creating an appropriate group of individuals in advance of a club falling into distress.

AFC Telford has had a chequered history both on and off the pitch. Putting aside their 1999 defeat in a pre-season friendly to a Hartlepool side then managed by Chris Turner, they most recently beat our neighbours Spennymoor Town (2-1) and have just signed Marcus Dinanga from Burton Albion on an 18 month deal – Marcus, described as a marquee signing by The Shropshire Star, has said that he learnt a lot from his recent spell at Hartlepool.

Returning to the debates on the darlo uncovered forum, AFC Telford has faced several financial crises since 2004 and, such has its need for cash been that the Supporters’ Trust was forced to revise its model and to allow individual shareholders to own in excess of 20% of the shares. This paved the way for the Pryce family to increase its investment in the club and, effectively, save AFC Telford; Andy Pryce is the current chairman and, it appears, works closely with the Trust.

This arrangement, a mix of fan shareholders and larger holdings, needs to be looked at: the Darlington situation (where the existing shareholder base cannot provide the necessary levels of funding) needs to be modified and the challenge is how to bring together, and then manage, two completely different shareholder groups – the ‘ordinary’ fans and a wealthier individual or corporate body. The challenge is often how does one integrate an entrepreneur who, by his very nature, wants control – a minimum of 51% of the shares or, more likely, 75%, with a disparate group of individuals (all of whom will ‘want their say’).

The fan ownership model of limiting the size of individual shareholdings is laudable but respect to those involved with AFC Telford for amending this model; let’s hope for continuing harmony and cooperation between the Pryce family/ company and the Telford Trust.

Saturday sees the return to Fortress Vic of a stalwart of local media and Pools from the early eighties era – James Bond, currently a presenter with BBC Radio Shropshire, will be following AFC Telford to their early exit from the FA Trophy. Two of my claims to fame are down to Mr Bond – firstly he persuaded me to write an article for a Pools programme in 1982 (as well as being a ‘sports reporter’ for the Hartlepool Mail between 1979 and 1985, James edited the Pools programme between 1981 and 1983) – I did, he rewrote it (completely) and so I refused to make any further contributions – and then, on 6 January 2007, he interviewed me on BBC Shropshire after Pools had visited Gay Meadow – a 1-1 draw with our goal coming from the one and only James Brown. Ooooh! My recollection of the interview – it was over the phone – is that James kept asking me questions about Pools and would then proceed to tell me how good David Edwards (Shrewsbury’s classy midfield general) was – and that he would be sold soon.  He was.

I’m sure that some of the older Pools fans will remember James – and just how apt his name was. He tells me that Daniel Craig used him as a model for his portrayal of the fictional figure; his long suffering wife reckons that he more closely resembles Timothy Dalton.

His name did bring with it certain challenges. A referee across various local leagues, James was officiating a match on ‘The Rec’ involving Owton Manor Social Club when he took the decision to caution one of their players:

“Young man, what’s your name?”

“You tell me yours first!”

“Certainly, it is James Bond.”

“Well, I’m Donald Duck, write that down.”

James wrote it down and sent in his report; the league found it strange that Owton Manor Social Club were playing an unregistered player.

James was partly responsible for the Pools trip to Telford in 1999 – a tour which also included a 7 (Seven….as the old BBC teleprinter would have added) – 2 victory at Oswestry. The good old days

I asked James earlier this week to name his favourite Pools player – an interviewer’s nightmare, his answer went as follows, “A Linighan or a Linacre perhaps. Goalie, Barry Watling. Denny Ingram for the last minute winner at Shrewsbury which basically kept Pools in the league – and my son Colin was Pools mascot that night. And the late, great Ken Johnson.  He was before my time but he did make exceedingly good chips.”

Denny Ingram was a defender who came through the youth system and played 249 times for us, scoring 14 goals, between 1993 and 1999. A player who always worked hard and fought for the cause – he only missed a handful of games until he was replaced by Darren Knowles and Micky Barron, and the games that he missed were usually due to suspension (rather than self-diagnosed fitness issues); he was sent off four times while playing for Pools.

I’ll now move onto a sadder subject – Gateshead FC – our near neighbours seem to be in some turmoil both on and off the pitch. Stories are rife about ownership and budget issues, and have been for some months, but the news just yesterday of Steve Watson and Micky Cummins leaving to join York is pretty desperate. Why would two guys who are doing so well in difficult circumstances move to the perennial ‘basket case’? I feel for the Heed fans and they are making noises about the club collapsing, a potential takeover or a phoenix – and one line of argument caught my attention – amongst all of the discussions about needing to ‘do something, rather than just talk’, a number have been complaining that they don’t have anything like our Trust! They are also talking about learning from the Darlington Trust. This made me think – yes, it happens occasionally – isn’t it time that HUST, the Darlington Board and representatives of the Gateshead fans met, swapped ideas, shared resources and worked together for the common good? I’m not talking about merging – three disparate groups getting together might, for example, help each individual group in filling gaps in its knowledge base. This might seem like a ridiculous idea – but if it would help HUST to become stronger, and to achieve a greater level of influence, then it is a fantastic idea.

As an aside, good luck to Ben Clark who has been put in charge at Gateshead – Ben, who will be forever remembered for that incident in Durham, played for Pools 185 times between 2004 and 2010, scoring 6 goals.

Many of you will have received emails from HUST about your membership and the need to change passwords. There have been a number of glitches here, particularly for those of you with gmail accounts. Can I urge you not to give up – please email membership@hufcsupporterstrust.org.uk – and you’ll get all of the assistance you need (and why not update your membership fees at the same time?). One thing is for certain in 2019 – HUST will need funds and, whilst there is a need (in my humble opinion – remember, I do not speak for the Trust Board) for them to engage with more corporate sponsors, fan members and their subscriptions are the ‘life-blood’ of Trusts. Your Trust needs you! Renew or join, and pay up.

So I’ll close with a question. How long before Joe Hart plays for Pools? Well, both Scott Loach and Ryan Catterick would need to be injured…….

Pip Pip

John

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