CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? – By MerseyPete
Posted on November 19, 2007
Filed Under Guest Articles
“Blues’ Crisis” was one of the Mail’s headlines last week. Well, that’s two words you never thought you’d see in the same sentence, isn’t it?
I can’t resist writing about the latest shambles at St Andrews, even though it will probably be out of date by the time you read it. I also thought a bit of history might help to put things in perspective (oh, go on, indulge me).
Like most Blues fans – if the message boards are anything to go by – I can’t make any sense of the ‘Bruce to Wigan fiasco’. I’ve tried to understand what the board are thinking of and can’t come up with a good explanation. Of course, we know that Sullivan is desperate to get out (he’s told us so often enough, in his inimitably charmless style). So I can see why the Carson Yeung bid was so attractive. And although Yeung has run into trouble I guess you have to remember that these takeovers rarely seem to run smoothly. The takeover of Liverpool took months. As I see things, it isn’t necessarily a case of people like Yeung not having the money, but on the whole they’ve no intention of risking their own cash – that’s not how they got rich in the first place. They want banks to stump up the funds, with a view to paying them back from the profits they hope the club will make. Doesn’t always work out, but that seems to be the theory. In this case it may be (and I know no more than any of you) that it’s simply the international credit crunch that’s derailed the Chinese bid, with banks being more cagey than usual.
But whatever the cause I just can’t for the life of me see why the current board would choose this precise moment to let our manager go. Of course, managers come and go all the time and it may be hard in the end to stop someone going. But right now, when it’s almost impossible to appoint a replacement, it seems completely reckless to wave Bruce goodbye. There may be contractual issues we don’t know about, and it’s plain that Bruce has been offered shedloads of money from Wigan (Wigan!). But it’s plain that if they can’t stop him going they might be in the same boat with Black as well. If you were Eric Black what would you do? Hang on as Blues’ caretaker knowing that a new owner might ditch you in a few weeks? Or cut and run for more cash with Bruce – even putting up with a spell of ‘gardening leave’ if you have to? Well – we’d all stay of course, but that’s because we’re fans. This is Eric Black’s living we’re talking about. And that leaves us with Terry Westley or worse, possibly for months.
So what was the downside of telling Bruce he’d have to stay for now and if he wanted to go when things were clearer, so be it? The very least we’re owed is some sort of explanation, rather than the current deafening silence from all concerned.
Anyway, I know younger fans get sick of being told it all used to be a lot worse down the Blues. But look, history does have something to teach us, so it may be worth recalling the exact day when as far as I was concerned Blues shambolic management and ownership reached the very pits. It was 23 March 1989 – don’t let anyone tell you different.
We were bottom of the old Second Division, already more or less doomed to our first ever relegation to the Third. Poor Garry Pendrey was the manager – a good coach caught in an impossible position. When Walsall came to St Andrews we hadn’t scored for six matches. I came down from Liverpool for the game and joined the just over 6,000 diehards. That’s right – 6,000 for a local derby. St Andrews was a rusting hulk by then. With 52,000 in, or even with 20,000, it had been an incomparable arena with the greatest, noisiest atmosphere in football. With a handful scattered around the sweeping terraces it felt like a graveyard, a parody of its former self. Even so, Blues were playing and I was happy to be there. Even happier when we not only scored a goal, but won! The goal scorer was Steve Wigley – a good winger, easily the best player at the club, who went on to become a successful coach. It’s testament to my basic irrational stupidity that I was ecstatic at a 1-0 win over Walsall that made no difference to our certain relegation. But that’s football for you and I set off back to Merseyside with a spring in my step.
There was no internet then of course, so my Blues’ news came from pathetic snippets in the national tabloids. And the following week – on 23 March – as I scanned the sports pages of the Daily Mirror for any glimmers of hope I saw the headline ‘Blades swoop for winger’. It revealed that we had sold Steve Wigley for about £100,000 to Sheffield United! It was as if the bloke was being punished for managing to score a goal! I imagine that our then owner, rag and bone man Ken Wheldon – the worst owner of a football club ever – decided that Wigley’s value must have gone up a few quid, so let’s cash in. Possibly buy another Carl Richards* with the profits. Or maybe it was just that any more goalscoring – damn his eyes – would have scuppered the scrap metal magnate’s plans for us to ground share with the Saddlers.
Well, it couldn’t get any worse that that and it didn’t. We did get relegated but even that bought the prospect of playing some teams we might be able to beat. Even the Kumar Brothers seemed like a welcome relief after Wheldon, until we found the truth about them. The moral from this? Well, not much really . Except that things could be worse. And probably soon will be.
* Carl Richards – our worst ever player. By a mile. A sort of football bollard who wore number 9. Pendrey bought him from Bournemouth, possibly mistaking him for someone else. Bournemouth’s then manager Harry Redknapp recalls this as this best deal ever.