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July 2021

How clubs (and football authorities) fall apart (part 93)

By Tony Attwood

This site has covered the collapses of and problems at various clubs, since we first started out.  Not because we want to say, “Nah nah nah nah nah” or words to that effect, but rather to point out that when the AAA call for change at the top of the club, such change can lead to disaster as much as it can to progress.

One of the most obvious cases of late is Newcastle; reborn and alive last season, with endless talk of breaking into the Europa League if not the Champions League itself, and with many fans looking for them to push on.

Only to find results like a 0-6 defeat by Liverpool and a 0-3 defeat by Sunderland just recently and now talk of relegation.

Then out come the stories.  The Telegraph did a piece on dressing-room tensions  – we used to get those tales at Arsenal (where the divisions were between the English players and the rest, and then the French speaking players and the rest.)   As a result the club banned the Telegraph from attending games and press conferences.  Rather like Leeds who used to do this sort of thing when they didn’t like a comment.

The manager, Pardew, went on to talk about, “The main balance we need to get is commitment on the pitch and an organisation to our game, which we didn’t have against Liverpool.  In terms of dealing with outside influences – which we’ve had a lot of this week – we’ve gained from that. We’ve gained a lot of experience from that.  I’ve had my fair share of it from clubs I’ve been at. I understand you get all sorts of accusations thrown at you. You can deny them, but it might add fuel to the flames.”

Which is, it seems to me, a fair comment.The story in question was another one about French speaking players and the rest.    Pardew agreed that communication problems had arisen from the fact that the five players he signed in January did not speak English.   It is something to keep in mind when members of the AAA demand wholesale transfers.  Yes you can bring in good players but if they all are non-English speakers you need time to get them to adjust.

What really didn’t help very much was that Gary Neville, the Sky pundit who is regularly touted as the most insightful pundit on the planet,  said that the presence of a lot of French players threatened to “rip the heart out” of a club like Newcastle.

I seem to remember much the same being said of the early days of Wenger at Arsenal.  Tony Adams is reported to have said, “What does he [Wenger] know about English football?”  and the press were aghast at these Johnny Foreigners all pouring into Arsenal.But problems don’t just beset big clubs.  We should not ignore the fact that Aldershot have gone into administration having been relegated from the Football League.  Their previous incarnation went into administration back in 1992 and they rejoined the League in 2008.

Wages had not been paid for the last month when the club folded.

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Moving up the leagues again mention must be made to Wolverhampton, who I am sure I once saw playing in the fourth division at Torquay, when I used to attend occasional games there with my dad.

Wolverhampton are reputedly one of the clubs who failed to put relegation clauses in their contracts, so they are going to have a hard time getting rid of everyone who is now surplus to League One requirements, but is on a fairly tasty salary.

The manager (Saunders) has said that it will take years to rebuild Wolverhampton. “It’s a question of juggling four managers’ groups of players,” he said.  Although he might be looking back to Doncaster (his previous club) who are travelling in the other direction, having won League One.

Not surprisingly the fans at Wolverhampton are annoyed with the chairman, and there was fighting after the last home game.

And then there is Hearts in Scotland who are said to be £25 million in debt, with £15 million of that cash owed to Ukio Bankas, a bank that itself is in  administration.

The tragedy is that Hearts supporters raised £1 million through a share issue after the club got a winding-up order from Revenue and Customs concerning an unpaid tax bill.

Hearts have said that,”The club is completely up to date with player salaries and taxes and the club continues to head towards operational self sustainability. This has been made possible by reducing operating costs while continuing to focus on increasing revenues through season ticket sales, match ticket sales, merchandise, hospitality and sponsorship.

“While the general economic and Scottish football marketplace conditions remain challenging, Hearts is focused on meeting its requirements as a business and a football club.  The club’s health and viability continues to be dependent on successful player identification, development and trading, careful cost control and building revenues.”

So maybe it is all a story.

Just like Rangers, where Roy Martin QC has been appointed to oversee the  investigation into Craig Whyte’s claims of links to the club wherein he said he was involved with the Charles Green consortium’s acquisition of Rangers’  last year.    Oh and if that were not enough the police are looking at CCTV coverage of the youth cup final between Rangers and Celtic.

Rangers, we must remember, won the Third Division in Scotland (the fourth tier) this year, but no one is quite sure how the new Scottish League will look next season, with talk of take overs and defections – and that is just among the league bodies.

And if all this muddle and mess is not enough to make you be careful about what you wish for in terms of change, take a look at the top division in England 10, 20 or 30 years ago.  Some of the names that we reveal in articles on the Arsenal History site are clubs that you would never consider to be top division teams.

Length of survival  is all too easily forgotten.

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3 comments to How clubs (and football authorities) fall apart (part 93)

  • WalterBroeckx

    Aldershot bankrupt? once again? I must admit it was in that strange stadium that I saw my first “English game” of football.
    Was staying with some people at their house with a few of the youth players of our team as we were there for a tournament. It was some kind of youth cup final and they took us there to see the game.
    Nice memories to be honest. Both the family and the game. My god it is almost 40 years since then…. my first ever visit to England….

  • ian

    Wolverhampton are a good example of how quickly things can go from bad to worst. I never really liked Saunders as a player, I cant remember why but I think he made a gesture to our fans when scoring at Highbury for Derby (I think) some years ago.

    Wolves Blog ( has some priceless quotes from him

    “When we have a team talk the players know that the only reason I talk to them is to make myself feel better.”


    “We’ve got to win two games and no disrespect to the teams we’re playing, it’s not Man United and Arsenal we’ve got to beat, it’s Burnley and Brighton.”

    my favourite though:

    “If the lad misses his two goals we would’ve drawn”

  • Mandy Dodd

    The topic being falling apart, Liverpool are not exactly falling apart….but

    Sounds like they have missed a chance. Owners promising more than they can deliver……beware……