I spent this evening as I spend most my evenings presently, and that was watching football stuff on YouTube. I stumbled across a BBC documentary about the few weeks in 2003 that John Gurney took over as Luton Town chairman.
I am going to relate this to the Imps in that usual heartfelt and hopefully genuine manner that I always do, so please bear with me. Anyway Gurney was a right rogue from the start, only paying four quid for the club. He sacked manager Joe Kinnear and former Imp Mick Harford, and then offered Harford the managers job when fans kicked off. Obviously Harford wasn’t interested so he decided to run a ‘Pop Idol’ style voting competition where he invited votes on three candidates. More on that in a bit.
He outlined a vision for the club that involved a formula one track around a 70,000 capacity stadium. He wanted to share with NFL and NBA franchises and rename the Hatters London Luton to tie in with the local airport.This is 2003, you won’t have read much about it because as it was happening we were off to Cardiff in the play-off final and around that time not much else mattered. Not evening eating or sleeping.
Gurney even proposed that Luton moved 40 miles away and merged with Wimbledon to secure a position in the league above. He was an eccentric who had control of a football club. His backers were allegedly a middle east consortium, and even after a invie to meet with the FA, Gurney was allowed to carry on with the purchase.
Gurney had his poll in local media and offered Kinnear, Mike Newell and Steve Cotterill as options. On the day of the big reveal only Mike Newell turned up, and was heard openly discussing contracts before the voting had closed. When the time to unveil came, Mike Newell had got the job. Fans reacted badly. (They shouldn’t have, Newell made a very good job of managing there for a while).
A supporters trust had been formed, and they decided to take action. Working with the rank and file fans they stopped virtually all season ticket sales in a effort to drive Gurney from the club. The break in cash flow meant that staff weren’t getting paid. The club was in free-fall and nobody knew how to stop it.
Nobody except the Trust, and it’s figurehead Gary Sweet. They’d found out the club had a £2m debt to a company called Hatters Holdings. Sweet and the fellow fans started to buy up shares in Hatters Holdings. Once they became major shareholders they called in the £2m loan. Luton Town were forced into administration.
When we went into administration I image a few Imps almost cried. The Luton fans cried, but they cried for joy. Going into administration meant the removal of Gurney, and his removal signalled the Trust who immediately encouraged fans to buy season tickets. Within days the money had flowed into the club and wages were paid. Fan power.
I tell that little story because I think we should be aware of how lucky we are, especially after the level of abuse our chairman took after we came down. I witnessed the protests, one in particular outside the ground. I’m not condemning or condoning, I do have my thoughts but I respect the motivations of those involved. We have come a long way since that ugly incident and trust has been rebuilt.
It gave me great delight to give the front cover of this months Ferret to Bob Dorrian. He is one absolute constant in our demise and resurrection and he’s gone from villain to hero. I think he’d admit he hasn’t always got it right, but what he has always shown is that the club is close to his heart, and even closer to his wallet. He’s ploughed money into this club when it needed it the most, and that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Then there’s Clive Nates, someone it gave us immense pleasure to put on the cover of the last Ferret. Clive is the new hope, the person who has taken us from one level to the next. We don’t sign Telford and Stockport rejects now, we sign the most promising young players in non-league. We don’t fish around for ex coaches or one season wonders for manager, we attract the most exciting young and respected manager (s) on the non-league scene. Bob ensured we had a club to save, Clive Nates is helping making us even better.
While I’m (apparently) licking the boards collective arses I wanted to mention a couple of others as well. I’ve time recently reading back over old Ferrets and in particular the editorials of Roger Bates. I always respected that he was a former fanzine editor who made it onto the board of the club he used to critique, but again it shows an unswerving support at a senior level. It was fascinating to read some of his observations of the board and managers of twenty odd years ago, but the fact I was able to demonstrates how close to his heart the club is. We don’t have a John Gurney running our club, we have several fans.
Dave Parman – fan. I worked with him for a while in 2010 and he’s been coming since ’76 and he’s also invested well in the club. Not on the board now, but Chris Moyses. Fan. We all know what he did for the club, and how it helped set us back on the right path. Ian Reeves – sunk £25k into the club matching the crowd funder, and had we not reached our target I bet he’d have chucked the lot in anyway. Fan.
Take Kevin Cooke as well. Many people forget Kevin was on the board as far back as 2002 and administration. He’s been involved with the club for a long time, and to talk to him tells you he is as passionate and committed as you or me. He talks about ‘the club’ a lot, not just the first team but the youth teams, the staff, the downs syndrome team… that’s right did you know we have a downs syndrome team? No, but we do and I know primarily because Kevin Cooke talked about it. He is immensely proud of the work that’s gone into changing the clubs image in the city, and he should be.
You know why I’m writing a lot about the club at the moment? There’s a prestigious awards ceremony coming up and….. no, not really. I’m writing a lot because I’m excited about being a Lincoln fan, I’m excited to go to games and I’m enjoying it as much as I ever have. I watched a video of Simon Yeo scoring past Torquay the other night and it struck me perhaps I didn’t enjoy that enough at the time. I was too worried about Scunthorpe and then Cardiff…. I didn’t relish the moment. I want to write now because I want to make sure I relish every moment of the good feelings and the positive vibes.
We’re being run by men who have the clubs best interest at heart, who seem to have resurrected Lincoln City as a football club and as a brand, and who picked the right bloody man to manage us at last.
Anyway, onto that awards thing I mentioned……
VOTE FOR ME!!
I’ve made it through to the finals of the Football Blogging Awards 2016 thanks to your votes, and I need now need your votes again. There are a couple of ways you can register your vote. You can click on the link below and select ‘The Stacey West Blog’ from the drop down menu under the Best New Blog Category. All you need is an email address to vote. If you voted in the first round you can now VOTE AGAIN in the final stage.
If you do Twitter it couldn’t be easier either – just click on the link below to be taken straight to a tweet to vote
Please take the time to vote. This is a prestigious blogging award and for us to get to the final is amazing in itself. For a Lincoln City / non-league blog to win the main award it will take all of our collective input, but we made it this far so anything is possible!