Where did it all go wrong ?

In fact a more pertinent question would be: where did it all go right? I’ll tell you, in recent times between around 1990 and 2003. Why? We had a ‘money man’ somebody who underwrote the almost inevitable losses of even a relatively successful club, somebody to pay the tax/vat man when he came a calling, somebody to fund the purchase and wages of players and staff alike. During that era that man of course was Brendan Elwood but you don’t have to look too far back into history to see the likes of Alan Kirk, Dragan Lukic, Josh Lewis (RIP them all) etc performing much the same tasks albeit with varying degrees of success on the pitch. Sadly the exception to this model even in these enlightened times is rare. Examine the P&L accounts where accessible of any club over say a ten year period.

                                                                Brendan Elwood

 Can I say that I have no particular inside knowledge of the ‘back office’ running of this club and aside from feeling depressed at the current state and level of the club have no axe to grind. I cannot believe in all seriousness that a group of owners/investors/shareholders would run a club/business into the ground deliberately. Conspiracy theories abound and perhaps I am missing something although I’m not sure what. I think what does need examining though are some of the decisions that have been made. Again poor decision making is nothing new, particularly at this club. The historic practice particularly during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s of accruing tax (paye/ni) bills and then facing the inevitable winding up order with the resultant panic to find the funds was not confined to County.  I think that the big difference from those days to these, are that there were not that many contentious decisions regarding the team management and the playing staff. In fact those of you old enough to remember the ‘Go Go County’ days of the mid to late 60’s would have witnessed one of the most vibrant set ups outside the old 1st Division.

They would have also witnessed football’s first ten bob gate entrance at any level. The other valid point to make is of course the football club in those days came with its own ground. Why this should have made such a huge difference to the various sets of players that have so woefully underperformed over the past few years is a question in itself outside the obvious ramifications regarding rental monies, maintenance, income and attractiveness to potential investors. Another point to add is that throughout the often turgid days of the 70’s and 80’s we were a Football League club. This of course was only afforded us via the vagrancies of the re-election system that did for the likes of Southport and Workington etc but kept us in the League perhaps you could argue artificially although there are several counter arguments that say that the lack of access to a large cheque book restricts success artificially or not. At least during the days of old we had the opportunity to play the likes of Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal in the cup competitions and have a decent pay day.

                                              County give United a football lesson!

So, where did it all go wrong? Cheshire Sport?  maybe but to cite this as the sole reason would be folly although you can chart the plummet from around this time. The Trust? Back to decision making again ! Administration? For sure but so did Rotherham (more than once) and a plethora of other long established league clubs yet they retained their League status, although I accept that some have not. The current board/shareholders? for sure but deliberately ? Perhaps like me you would have wondered what propelled the then board to fire Paul Simpson with no plan in place at a critical time of the season for a quick, viable replacement – that decision combined with all the aforementioned blunders cost us our 106 year old Football League place. What then followed you could be forgiven for thinking you were on some sort of bad LSD trip: Mathias appointed, Mathias dismissed, Evans/Didi in, Evans/Didi out, Jim in, Jim out, Swiss Bosnian in, Swiss Bosnian out, Ian Bogie in, then loan our strikers out to our relegation competitors with no recall clauses, another relegation, Ian Bogie resigns, we languish near the foot of the Conference North, narrowly and rather luckily beat a team 3 levels below us in the FA Cup.

                                                                Soon to be installed at E.P

They say that a bad accident such as an aircraft crashing is a myriad of separate incidents all coming together. Well we plummet at an alarming rate and the ground is looming. I know Pure Radio recently pondered the question “are we actually in a crisis” I suspect crisis has become such a way of life at this club we wouldn’t know otherwise. It is the norm and has been for years.

There is an argument that there are too many football teams in the UK, and they are not all sustainable. I don’t agree, well not with the first part of that sentence. What mystifies me is that Rochdale, Bury, Oldham, Hartlepool and countless others have faced problems not dissimilar to ours and survive as league clubs. In the early part of this year Bury FC declared that unless £1million was injected into the club they would fold within 6 weeks – they survived. You could also study the common theme associated with clubs that were no bigger then County only a few years ago: Wigan, Reading read – Whelan and Madejski. Read the same for Hull, Doncaster and so on. Swansea a little different but I will cover that another day. Counter that with our fate, who, along with perhaps Darlington have seen the worst plummet down the pyramid structure in the quickest time – Championship to Conference North a drop of 4 levels to regional part time football in under a dozen years with no ground ownership and substantial shareholder debt.  

So, what does the future hold? Well we have some of the best fans in the country, still in ludicrous numbers for the level we find ourselves playing in. It is quite right that we spend within our means and run the business accordingly WITHOUT LOSING SIGHT THAT THE BENCHMARK OF ANY COMPETATIVE SPORTING TEAM IS THE ABILITY TO WIN AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL THAT THEY CAN REASONABLY COMPETE AT. I do not think League 1 or 2 football is unreasonable for a club of this size and type. How I get misty eyed when thinking about the perennial days of the 4th Division circa 1971 – 1991.

So you see turmoil, mayhem, bad decision making and chaos are nothing new here. In an ideal world we need a cheque book and preferably a dedicated owner to operate it.

I’m off for a Chinese now although a Hamburger or Caviar and Vodka would be equally acceptable or even Sheep’s eyes……..


PS: My views (as diplomatically as I can make them) may or may not represent those of HTH/SCFC)


  1. The best way to prevent poor short-sighted decisions, particularly those ultimately not in the best interests of the Club, such as transferring the ownership of EP away, is to ensure that people who see the Club as paramount, i.e. the supporters, have enough influence over said decisions. In the absence of this, poor decisions will continue to be made. After all, it's worth remembering that the legal responsibilities of any CEO are to the Shareholders & them alone. We need a better balance between capital & people (supporters).

  2. Well said Graham.
    In general its the bane of football clubs existence the dependance on business interests putting money in. It always morphs into loans by some less than mysterious process, and yet the only consistent investors in the Club remain the one`s short changed as the Club gets submerged under a mountain of `debts' lurching from crisis to crisis.Greater supporter involvement represents an absolute must in so far as the Clubs continued existence is concerned.The lodging of the CAV with the Council, by the Supporters Coop is as useful first step, but its only that -whoever emerges from the much hinted at interest in the Club be it from China or wherever, need to involve the supporters via the Coop should they replace our current Club Board. That way there is at least a chance of success.


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