Transcript from Gary Harwood interview.
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Guests for coconuts TV today is Gary Harwood was if he doesn't mean me saying born at well I was actually born in bulk sure but that's only eight miles out of cage nine versus another came so yeah born and bred and the director of the club from we believe March 1981 through to me to this slide slightly out so director of the club from the end of the eighty nine ninety season and there's a reason why I'm can be very specific on that because I sold my company on the first of June 1990 and as soon as that became public knowledge that I'd sold it David Rustin who's a relative of my wife what was sadly a relative of my wife yes on the first of June David have been on at me for years I will perhaps cover that when I go back about some of the history about joining the board and I said no not do that and too busy in business and if I when I take something on I'd do it wholeheartedly on the day I sold my company one of the first people that phoned me was David Rustin and he said now you've got no excuse so I joined in at the end of that eighty nine ninety system and I season and I actually left well I stayed around for another year but I actually resigned from the board in I'm a mate and I can't remember the exact date May 2005 so it's short now after the end actually saying this Everett sighs I'll still be gonna go on to Chrissy later but honestly when you start if you have a successful period 1990-91 season partway through the 90 1991 season old third division when we were really going quite strong we weren't at the top because that was a light burst that took us to the champion to the top of that but we realized we've got something quite special so four of the board decided that we would approach the bank and and see if would because historically we had to sell players just to literally stay afloat and we didn't want to sell any players we realize we've got something quite special the middle at the middle of vaccines and so the format board members with wretched smart to myself Gerald Lowe and Roger hunt and the four went to the bank and said we don't want to sell any players we want to have a go and see if we can get to the Premiership at because you have big bonuses not only in football terms but in financial terms if we can get there the bank weren't happy to fund us and yeah we were a team pop business to them literally at import business and we were borrowed quite heavily from the bank at the time and they said know where you've got to sell you've gotta sell if we're not going to extend your borrowing in the end the four of us guaranteed the borrowings so we've offered personal guarantees now this is probably the first time this has become public knowledge interested in four of us put everything on the line they were unlimited personal so our houses everything could have gone and that was - for us to have a go to get the Premiership we all know what happened in that we didn't quite make it bad there's reasons why we didn't that I believe are the right reasons but again that's another story and however we didn't quite make it so players had to go at that point I mean we were heavily borrowed obviously with big guarantees from from the four-door as alleged English sell your ass decently and that's when of course Dion went to Manchester United one or two others went my Chapel to Charlton Allen Kimball to Wimbledon etc that paid back the excess borrowing which managed to release the guarantee we still have big normal borrowings but it guaranteed the excess borrowings and that's when we said to the then chairman reg we now need that just we can't keep doing this we're not going to do it again we need to get back to break even regrettably that never happened there's something that's very interesting joy makes a lovely absolutely and I think I think well it's gonna say I think out of the regular eleven and there probably wasn't quite a regular eleven but but there was there were eleven that were that have played in most of the time I would argue that seven or eight of them had fantastic careers after they left us which I thought that you wanted to then find out breakeven and kind of get to that stage but then in 1994 here says the wrenched points a real okay and also if you want to break England it's almost like so my samurai got a breakthrough but they didn't wanted to we were carrying we spent again to regenerate build and build the ground like I need I need to be careful on some of the things I'm saying to use but but there there was a period in the mid 90s that you've touched on there was another period at the end of the 90s not sort of 99 2000 2001 and and again God rest his soul as well rage was chairman in both of both sides periods and rage was a great guy don't get me wrong he was a great guy he was a passionate Cambridge United man but on occasions too passionate on occasions any common sense went out the window and there are a couple of periods that was one there was another period as I say at the end of the 90s where reg did some things that the rest of the board I I'm not gonna say didn't know about but there were the way reg got the board agreement was not the way you would normally expect it wasn't let's have a board meeting sit around the table discuss it all together it was a phone one of the directors what do you think about this well I yeah I think that would be okay if the other directors agree and but so so you would support it well I would support it if at all everyone wants to support it so he then found another one they said well so-and-so support in it so yeah and and he literally went round and we we found found out in both periods that there were things that had happened that had we collectively sat down and discussed we and that's a sad admission of my as a director of the club but rage was I mean as it's a was a great guy but a little bit of a dictator and I think fans that will remember reg and people that know him in the city will know regice style and I I don't want to criticize him too much because he did fantastic things for the club 1996 associate directors wants to raise funds by issuing preference shares offering 27 percent return over three years yep alternatives were the players going part-time the club relocating or putting the club up for sale 96 97 as well Harvard confirms the club is for sale for talking surprising my teacher funds can you shed any light into that in terms of so that what's that actually any businesses we've got interested or anybody just environment at the buzzer so in in that period there were there there were two or three two or three individuals that approached us it turned out that two and two and I'm not going to name them because they were both local were chances two of them with absolute chances and and we found it out fairly quickly there was one party that we thought was genuine and we progressed quite a long way in fact that the part I'm not going again not going to name the party but the party attended a board meeting and sat and talked all the directors and we honestly thought that this particular party would either come on board as a significant shareholder or alternatively make an offer for the whole of the shares it turned out that the party walked away when they had a close look at the book and again I don't want to be critical of anything but this is a tip still operator the cloud the club I said earlier the company had always operated at a loss at what I call a trading loss the only way this club at all my 15 years on the board the only way until the last few years we stayed in business apart from when we guaranteed Bank was to sell players that was the only way were and we were averaging losses of anywhere between 400 and 600 thousand a year yes tell me from a support receipt immunocal the idea okay so I guess and let's be specific I thought well there were two organizations it was coozer see USA and there was a fans trust called CFU Q's it was the first and there were two guys primarily two fans that promoted accuser and and they didn't know had no intention of being shareholders there knowing that all they wanted to be was a supporters Association and and have some sort of conduit with the board and the and the two guys one was a guy called Dave Brown and the other one I can't remember his name there were two guys and they were passionate came to generate fans and and there was a conduit and but there were things that we told them that that yeah we didn't tell the newspapers there and there were things that we told them that we said they could tell other fans and and that relationship worked quite well however when we get towards the late-ish of the 90s have we we collectively the fans needed to do something different to that and I can't remember again whose idea it was but somebody that had an idea to form a fans trust I think it might even have been Brian net more at the time had the idea yes and so any fact it was definitely Brian that approached the board and it later became Nick Pommery but but initially it was Brian and Brian approached the board and if I'm perfectly honest with you there were mixed reactions from the board members and I won't go through each of the board members specifically but some said you must be joking I won't use the colorful language that was said there and and if I say colorful language you can probably guess which board members they that might be there are others that said well it's not going to achieve anything but it won't do any harm either so let's let's give it a go but there are a couple which may surprise you that actually supported it and the two that supported it with the two that eventually say if you gave the most thing well now think of the most dicta they get the second and third most stick to and the two that supported it were Richard Sommerfeld and me and we said this could be a good thing if it's organized properly and we said at a board meeting we should encourage them and where there was long debates but the net is the board eventually said all right let's support it should have gone further than it did but faster than it did and the reason why it didn't was it again might my view is that CFU suddenly and welcome welcome as far as the board would concern decided that their real objective was to raise money rather than put all their attention on growing community now they didn't mean to say they stopped the community idea but but there were three or four years when the whole of C refused functions from board members view and eventually a Chairman's view was their focus was really on raising money which was great we needed money but other things became second and third priorities wait and again we have the LDV Finland bounces it seems too well it's so so I would I would not necessarily agree with with that last statement it certainly affected all Football League clubs because it was ITV digital which was obviously the three the three Football League divisions and so again I'm going to give you a bit of background to that so we've we've discussed the fact that came as United in trading terms has all put all words at that time make it four to six hundred thousand a year loss and and Bosman happened it's the same time at the same time and suddenly oh no how are we going to generate because we if you're over twenty four you could you could move for free and given that the way we kept the club afloat with selling players primarily players that we'd either brought up ourselves through the ranks like Danny Granville Gary Roberts Trevor Benjamin etc etc or players that we've got as throw aways from other clubs like Dion time it's Steve Claridge etc so Bosman suddenly gave us a big challenge and then and the hot every Football League club not it the vast majority of the 72 football played for the league members were were faced with the same challenge and Along Came the Savior it was called ITV digital now I was a chairman at the time so I wasn't at the meeting where the chairman of the Senate - chairman of the Football Club voted to sign the contract with ITV digital but I can remember the board meeting here in this very room after the contract had been signed when reg presented the deal that the 72 chairman had done had I T and this was going to be our Savior because not only would it cover four to six hundred thousand a year it would cover about three-quarters of a million a year early doors and it would grow if ITV digital was successful well we all know what happened and I believe you might have the statistics but something like the thirteen Football League clubs ended up going into administration I was repair the ears so I wouldn't say it affected us the worst but we no longer could sale players or couldn't sell players to the to the value that we needed to keep the club going nor could we rely anymore on this Savior that was short-lived in fact I can actually remember a day I stood on the south bank in London outside ITV like the ITV Center on the south bank with all the other chairmen and I stood next to bury her and was on my left Delia Smith from Norwich was on my right and we were all holding it holding placards now I'm not a member of a trade union I have never been there help the placard in my life but we spent a whole day out there because all of the Football League clubs were affected by it and now we were we were perhaps losing I don't believe we were losing more than any other Football League club but we were certainly some of the higher ones and this is where we got into serious trouble now because what happened was we had a change of manager in 2000 2001 John back second time around yes we were and he kept us up he joined as he insisted yes he kept us up in that first season however I mentioned earlier that there were certain things that my predecessor implemented without necessarily the full support of the board and what we discovered and when we started looking at the accounts and we did look at accounts regularly unlike what has happened more recently here where management accounts weren't produced we started to find not that some of the things that Reggie told us on the phone about some of the players that were being signed was slightly different to the reality there you said the it well it was a bit of both actually it was a little bit of both and so we realized that we that that players have been signed so so not only we've got the whammy of Bosman the whammy of ITV digital but now we've got the whammy of the four to six hundred thousand potentially going up significantly more than that and I could go in no I'm not going to go into too many details but it was that that culminated in me becoming chairman that is actually why I became chairman yes I can I can tell you precisely how it happened so I john beck was here he'd kept us up in that was it 2000 2001 season I mean I'm getting a bit old my memory for the season so he kept us up that season so we'd started there for the 2001-2002 season and we hadn't had a good start and even more players were coming in more players that really we or some of us on the board didn't think were the right sort of players to bring in yeah that and again I don't want to single out players but I'm sure the fans will know and remember them I was going to say remember them fondly well so here's what happened so normally the first three months of a season we wouldn't get management accounts because the the trends weren't going but we then get the monthly from month four onwards so so sort of ended July management accounts August management account September we didn't we didn't produce them we got the first set of management accounts in October and we looked at and they thought these costs a lot higher than they ought to be we we didn't do anything at that point the November accounts came out and confirmed our worst fears now that coincided with Reg going off to Thailand it also coincided with us sacking John Beck because the results on the pitch weren't very good either so we appointed John Taylor as caretaker manager Reg went off to Thailand and we the board said to John we need to get these costs under control or we won't even be here by the end of the season John was great I have a lot of time for John Taylor he understood the problems even with that he he said I still want to be your permanent manager and we said well John you've got to prove yourself as a manager as well and if you look at the results while John was caretaker they weren't brilliant but they were a dance I'd better sorry they were much better than they were when John Beck just before he left so we decided the board Reg was still in Thailand that we wanted to appoint John Taylor as our permanent manager to carry on the good work he was doing on the pitch and off the pitch and Reg bless him went ballistic he said you will not you will not over my dead body do that and we said well Reg the rest of the board are here and it's unanimous apart from you and you're the chairman of the board you're not the owner of the club this is a Board of Directors we're going to do things democratically and we're going to appoint John Taylor he came back from Thailand in the new year in the January of 2002 he was still fuming and he said if you guys want to do that I'm standing down the rest of the board said to me would I be chairman and I said I would but I would be a very different eminent to Reg smart I would be the public face of cameras United on the board I would talk to the fans I would talk to the media I would do talk to do it do all of that I will chair the board meetings but I will not be the same chairman as Reg Smart digging trenches to build the South stand or sitting in the office here day in day out running his business from here but also watching what's going on absolutely there's a team and I think this week your decision that's what I'm saying yeah wait move is a businessman would you would you would you one you can see within who opens it seems to me it seems to be interesting the first and - we can I see the same as a team because he is and so clearly any improvement from 1.1 to 400,000 is good 400,000 is not however good that's not where your site should be sent realism it's relative now the first part of your question there was talking about accountancy generally and shambolic in some clubs yes and and it had been here so I so I understand and however one of the so so David Rustin I don't know if you know but David Rustin was an accountant and his firm used to produce the account so when I first joined the board there were no management accounts no nothing it was David saying we're all right well we're not all we're not all right it was as simple as that so one of the things I insisted on supported by most of the board was that we needed a set up a management accounting system and Steve green all was secretary at the time and Steve assisted by me but Steve did most of the work set up a fantastic management accounting system that we kept all the way through until I left in 2005 and it produced management accounts as I say every single month apart from the first three months when we didn't bother because it was July all but now I'm going to jump forward to 2004 2005 so I need to touch on 2002 and 2003 before it so John Taylor we'd appointed at Christmas or new year in that 2001 2002 season and he took us to at the LDV final at so so we we weren't performing brilliantly on the pitch but but we were doing okay and he was under extreme pressure to keep the cost down as I mentioned earlier and to and to take players out but we were losing still losing hundreds of thousands a year so one one of the things we had to do because we would have gone into administration in 2002 or early 2003 had we not done this we had to get more capital into the into the into the company so the first port of call was the bank and the bank said you're joking you have to be already losing this we're not we're not going to put any more in we scoured round other banks and allied Irish were tempted but in the end wouldn't do it Johnny Homme by that time had been introduced to the club and okay Johnny Hong capital wealth and global group and global group had a bank there was a bank called global bank and Johnny said well why don't you talk to global bank yeah absolutely so absolutely well I could tell you how he got on the board as well but that's another story split so we approached Johnny Hans bank and they weren't interested either in the end we went to a company in it switch it switch or Colchester can't remember but out that way called Sterling and Sterling had helped other football clubs that were struggling because of the ITV digital the Bosman thing so we borrowed from sterling six hundred thousand for a two year period in the hope that with John at John Taylor as our manager from 2002 we could get the cost down and we could get to break-even the nub of it all is we've got the cost down but we didn't get down to break even even with selling Dave Kitson which is another story that I think the fans might want to talk about we did we didn't get them down to zero you know the dude was such a so 80s and at pervert I could also tell you some things about Dave Kitson that you may choose to believe or not but but that is another story so sterling weed borrowed 600,000 from Sterling that 600,000 had to be paid back yes by Christmas 2004 it's a two-year deal he never to do with it ah well not only with interest attached but they had they became a preferential creditor so they were effectively yes just like the bank just like Barclays as a business they have first call on the assets yes first call on their set so what the difficult time was and now I'm leading up to that 2004 five time we knew that we had to raise six hundred thousand there's an absolute minimum by Christmas 2004 absolute minimum if we didn't we would but we were under no doubt that sterling would foreclose on the asset because they had also lended lent to other football clubs who had found out exactly the same that they were it was indeed it was indeed and that was the time when I stood every home game I seem to think on the pitch with the microphone sort of encouraging and to be fair and to be fair not in I will yeah that that's another thing that we'll never forget I think the PA system was never the best that they have a stadium and I I can honestly tell you that when you stand in the middle of the pitch and you're talking you can't hear whether it's coming out the CFU to raise 100,000 Fords this 600 we felt we could get the other 500 one way or another they did raise it and you saw the button to sound advice I had something nice so I'm gonna take it in exactly so so the fans did raise a hundred thousand although thirty thousand of that was a little gift from the club because it was money coming into the club and we wanted for PR reasons it to go into the that the the fans pot if you like so but even so the fans did a terrific job I think it was the pizza it was now now I'll tell you why kits a twin so John Taylor was manager at the time and I think I've said this publicly before and I think Dave has said he didn't say this before but I'm gonna say it again because no disrespect to Dave but as a director and chairman of a club I believe what my manager told me in preference to what I hear on the grapevine or I hear from players you may think that's wrong but I I trust my manager and we were John Taylor was struggling we were now in that the second season with John Taylor the season where John had to go John Taylor was struggling and he said I don't know I don't think I'm going to be able to keep this club in we were then in League Two and we were sorry League one we were going to go down and we said well this can't be this can't be the case yeah look at look at the players we've got and he said to the board and said I'm sorry gentlemen he said but I've had all the players in one by one and Dave big Davis told me he can't do any more for this football club he Dave can't do any more and John said he has lost all motivation he's not a good influence in the dressing room at the moment because he can't do anymore we're gonna have to sell him and that's what triggered that let's put gave up force out then why selling associate when in comparison with what jobs that at the time a lot more money visible on fire yep why can't why I'm in seventh it says if I must have split my audacity so close money so he was solved for 300,000 let me correct that when he was sold for three hundred thousand one hundred and fifty thousand upfront and a hundred and fifty thousand on the deferred payment why sell him cheap so I'm yeah I'm sorry to say this Ben but if you try to sell a house your house is worth what someone will pay for it if you want to sell your scooter it's worth what someone will pay for it we touted Dave Kitson everywhere and I can honestly say that there were only two clubs that showed any interest in Dave Kitson one was ready and the other was Barry fry at Peterborough and Barry fry came to Cambridge came into the room and he said I know you're struggling to sell kits and I know you've got an offer from red you know I don't know exactly what it is he said but I'll take him off your hands now I'll give you 70 thousand for it and we said very politely we use two words two words that Barry well understood yeah and and he said you'll regret it not take it by offering said because he said Redding's offer won't be any better Reddy's offer was three hundred there were some significant add-ons on top of the three hundred there were significant add-ons and it could have built up to 700 to 750 had things gone certain way there was definitely a sale on course and quite a healthy cell on course I was very surprised was I surprised that the wrong word I was alarmed rather than surprised when I heard because I was no longer on the board at the time that the the board later on much I mean we were by that time we were out of the league were negotiating with reading a fee to cancel the the salon clause in the contract it was pretty bloody obvious excuse the language that read him we're going to sell kearson because he was good what yeah despite what I said about he said it couldn't do any more for this club he was he's clearly gone he clearly got the ability absolutely and that and it was obvious ready we're gonna sell em for big money okay now let me now I said I'll come back to Johnny horn so that's an interesting link to take me back to Johnny horn so I was chairman and one day I got a phone call from a guy called Edward Edward Edward it's not his surnames gone it will come back to me later Edward at the time had just stopped being the marketing director of Tottenham Hotspur he previously been a marketing consultant our Old Trafford with Manchester United an Edward phone phoned me up and he said we've not met mr. chairman they say it yet but he introduced himself and he said I know someone that you might be interested in meeting and I said I'm intrigued who is this person he said it's person called dr. Hahn Johnny Hahn he got his degree from Cambridge University he lives in Cambridge he didn't he lived in for burn but I'm near enough he lives in Cambridge he loves the city he's got a group of sports companies and I didn't pursue on this phone call what the sports company were but they were betting companies effectively and he wants to invest in football and he wondered if if he could come and talk to you and I said Edward of course you can so Edward came along I'm Edward was a great guy I actually wanted Edward on the board more than I wanted Johnny Hahn on the board but Edward didn't want to be on the board Johnny Hahn did Johnny Hong joined the board Edward we retained Edward as a marketing consultant and as an advisor because he got lots of contacts in the football industry when we knew John Taylor had to go I said to Edward don't know where we're going to go to replace John Taylor when we've got any big money that's part of the reason why we had John here in the first place because John was prepared to do the job at an amount we could afford so we had a chat and he said I think I've got the answer for you Gary and I said who's that he said it's Claude Leroy I said well I know that name why do I know that name and he said you will know him for an international player in the for France in the in the 60s and I said now I know for some other reason and he said well you might know him because he was Brigitte Bardot's boyfriend and I said that's where I remember the name from anyway you know with Claude's history in football they had been all over the world he'd that he'd had success wherever he went I think we'll never get caught and Edwards said I think you will you might not get him for very long but I think you could get in because he's very interested in having some involvement in English so John Howard I was working in I think I was either in Norway or Sweden right at the time Claude was on a break from China he was at Shanghai but he was back at his home in Paris and he was working for Canal+ doing some it's a some punditry work John was available at the time we could meet Claude in Paris so John and Edward went over to Paris to meet Claude fight he found me I was wherever I was in Scandinavia he said Claude will come and do it for nothing nor will do it for nothing but there is a condition he wants to bring his assistant who's been with him all over the place and he wants to bring his assistant with him and will need to pay his assistant his assistant no more money than John Kahler so you get the two of them for the price of John Taylor an international football manager who've been to the World Cup taking teams of it everywhere he'd been have been successful now at that time we were going out of the league that's why John had to go claude came in I think there were eight games to go it might have been nine oh he did oh yes he did yes he did he flew in every Thursday night because we used to go pick him up either Roger hunt or me or John Howard we used to pick him up he was always here from Friday morning until either Sunday afternoon or Monday morning when he went back to Paris he was very significant he wasn't on the training pitch at nope it was all free now how Elfi was here taking training that's why Claude wanted and was insistent that he and his assistant here and Herbert know they was right my biggest regret was that they didn't make it here and the hardest thing I ever had to do in was that was the fire herve but Claude was here so any fan that thinks he didn't have any influence he I I went in its chairman again I'm like Reg I didn't go into the dressing room all the time but on occasions I'd go into the dressing room when Claude was here I went into the dressing room or if it was an away game into the meeting room at the hotel when he gave the team talk I K and I seen a few team talks not many before court came here with other managers there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that those players after Claude's team-taught were ready to beat anybody I mean he was a fantastic motivator a fantastic motivated one of the best guys I've ever met in any walk of life and I've been in some big businesses globally and and Claude in those last eight or nine games I did we lose one I think we might have lost one of them we won all of the others apart from another one that we drew and it was fantastic and it was clawed innervate that in the last game of the season put John ruddy in gold away at Lake nor him and the rest is history so to speak with that young lad as well I mean if only bossman had happened he would have gone on for rific I as I said was the hardest thing and the saddest thing I had to do I I mean he he couldn't speak a word of English when he got here he came with his wife and two young girls none of them could speak a word English if I could speak a bit of French but not a great deal I don't think there was anybody else on the board at the time that could speak any French tour it was interesting and but Claude assured me at the end of that first season Claude would wanted Claude wanted to stay here but he was drawn back to Congo and there's a reason for that him and his wife were very much into underprivileged people in Africa and he wanted to go and build a hospital he'll raise money to build a hospital in the Congo so he went back to the earth and her face stayed here and Claude agreed to be director of football now that proved to be a real challenge with him in the Congo because mobile phones were weren't the best in those days and with between here in the Congo were were awful so that didn't work okay as I say it's my biggest regret that he didn't make it because we had to let him go as you well know within a few months of that final 2004-2005 heywait as well never mind the sky big ambitious plans obviously they were talking ii pokes out development movie market yes there was also talks over tour of China yep mostly I best Johnny Thomas behind setting up the CAD amis in China and it was time to potential yep why did neither roads become verification or say again Big Ideas big big plans when the cutoff rate another loss under Li why why again why are we angry either angry okay so those two things been will work part of the way that the club was going to be secure for the future and break even because remember we're still losing money we'd still losing money we hadn't addressed it it was still that four hundred to six hundred thousand a year so why the the north end the north end and we had planning permission for it I mean that's why the south end got built first so we could move the pitch back so we could build the north end the North End was fundable if we got hotel a hotel we weren't going to run a hotel well we're going to franchise a hotel we weren't gonna run a fitness center that was in the plan in there we were going to franchise it and and the franchise operators wanted to be here so obviously before we in the end we didn't we didn't dig the soil but we would put contracts in place got planned stacked up and they would have generated through the franchises would have generated not enough to cover us but would have got us very close to break-even the Chinese thing sounded great so there was a survey done in China with young kids and this survey was done by by a football at concern and it was asked these kids to name three cities in the UK and guess what three cities they named Manchester Liverpool Cambridge they Manchester Liverpool obvious Cambridge was the university connection so we were convinced that if we could tie the university with football that we could do some good the Chinese as you well know and mad on football so and we've got lots of colleges here that do nothing in the summer they stand in M colleges lined up and both university colleges and other colleges prior here at private colleges language schools and things where we could take kids put them up and we could run soccer schools now remember we've been pretty good over the years at bringing kids through the it so we thought we could be pretty good at running these schools as well I did personally got involved with a guy who was a representative of a consortium in China that wanted to do it and we met here at the Abbott stadium we've even drawn up the contract and then it all went flat and so there was maybe it was my fault that I I said was chairman that I was insistent that I was the public face of the club I do all the media talk I do and there are things that my co directors would say they some of them they said it at the time Gary don't go on the web page and answer fans questions Gary don't go and talk at fans forums don't do this yeah you're gonna because you want to be in so open with them you're gonna take us into some traps and maybe I should never have said that we were we were exploring the possibility of setting up Chinese schools and part of that we were going to have funded a tour to China Jonny Han was going to introduce us to people that had got the stadia there that would that would entertain us so it wasn't pie in the sky however the China I don't know how much business any of you have done with but they are really tricky people our deal with and and it turned out that we couldn't pull it off talking about the debt that we were trying to find spinal cord at a period of time why did you not as as a board of directors for instance it's the clear faces because it wasn't a short-term thing been this this was a long-term problem if it was a quick fix one month or two months at the better better brains than me pored over it for three years to try and put it so let's talk about John Howard and the sale of that I want to talk about I actually want to talk about the sale of the a/v stadium and the lease basis and I exactly so and it's linked to that question there how did it how do you how do you fund that this this club you you could borrow money even in those days you could borrow money if you've got lots of revenue and even if you were losing money if you've got lots of revenue and you could show a business plan where you could generate eventually reasonable profits from lots of revenue and if you yeah if you can generate I feel revenues five million and yet and and you can generate 10% on the bottom line you're going to generate half a million aren't you if you're ever if you could generate 20% well great that's that's a million but we couldn't show that we weren't we weren't in that lead we I come back this was a tin pot business it was that import business so we went round all the banks no banks were interested bless Johnny Han again he said well there's somebody else that you could go talk to mr. chairman you could go and talk to the LAN dout partnership a guy called David Landau now he's rolling in it he's a billionaire he will he will fund him and so guess what we went to see him as well I won't give you his address but he's in North London he's in a very very upmarket part of North London so much so that when I when we got to his house we couldn't find the way in I went with Richard Sommerfeld because he was the finance guy we eventually got into his house we had a meeting in his kitchen we sat at his breakfast bar his breakfast bar I overlooked an indoor Olympic sized swimming pool I mean this guy is rolling in it and he made us an offer he made us an offer this is before any and before getting John Howard well I can tell you that it was about the same amount of money as John Howard offered with a with ties that were so so handcuffed it was unbelievable so he wanted we still own it we still own the assets yes and and there was it that there were so many caches in his offer that when we pored over it with solicitors we concluded that he actually didn't want to help the club he wanted some land and it turned out when we dug deeper that David Lander had lots of different companies and there were a couple of them that were a big big development companies property development companies so he went out the window and everything went I mean though we were running out of options so this is 2004 as we said we're running out of options John Howard is a has been in property all his life he left school at 15 and he went to work as an estate agent he was excellent at selling houses he eventually set up his own estate agency business and got bored with his state agency now I'm going back I'm telling you this because it's really important to why John Howard John Howard then then thought well what else can I do in property and he was involved with football at the time came is United and directors at the time used to go to every away game I mean I if I was in the country I'd never miss a game no matter where it was no matter what day of the week it was and a lot of the games were in the northwest so you have to drive up a m6 and up there and 6:00 in those days you'd pass three really big at tower blocks somewhere near between Villa Park and Birmingham Center you can see it from the m6 and John Howard said one day said I've done a deal with the council I've bought those three tower books they've been empty for years yeah because people don't want to council-owned and council friends and they were a nicer way so I bought those three tower blocks and we're talking to John just as you do what on earth would you do that for Johnny I'm gonna knock one of them down so I'm gonna blow it up there were three cyber sided so I'm gonna block the middle one I'm gonna leave two so now there's more space travel so then I'm gonna take all the insides out I'm gonna strip all the insides out I'm gonna put a gym on the ground floor a concierge and a gym on the ground floor we're going to put swimming pools in there and we've got to put flats three or four flats on each floor these tower blocks would take 200 flats each something like that he did that and he made millions and millions and he carried on doing that for several years he went about metropolitan borough of Manchester brought some tower blocks there went to some in London and he made a lot of money then he got bored with that and run out of Council's that would sell tower blocks for the Cotten's hate me as well so he then started buying going to auctions buying properties that have got tenants in and I said I can remember saying to but what why why would you do that John you can't make any money out of that and he said well I can buy and cheap I said get that helmet now cheap how are you gonna make money he said well he said play the long game they said the tenants will die won't they sooner or later it might be twenty years might be thirty years he said but we'll play that and it's a numbers game so that was his property involvement it wasn't commercial it was not commercial so everything had failed and we sat a board meeting and it was about September time and I I said I don't know where at what else we can do gentlemen we're probably gonna have to call it a day and John didn't say anything and at the end of the board meeting any other business he said let's go back to how we get out of this I'll go and talk to my partner said I don't want to do this but he said I'll make the same offer as David Lander did but I won't put any conditions on it erroneous ones about development I'll give you a 50-year lease on it and I'll give you an option but you're a unilateral option you don't need my agreement for the second 50 years no one well that that's not true that's not true Barclays valued the ground and they valued it because we would as I said we wanted to raise money from the banks so Barclays valued the ground and there is a report I don't think I've got it anymore because I think I left it with the club but there was a report about so thick about 70 odd pages I'm not sure what value are they used but they valued it we had the rights to take it to other banks after they said no so we used it but it was not our property but I'm sure there would be a copy in the club somewhere I am sure there unless someone's lost it or thrown it away it's about so thick and a carpet as ice I can't remember who the banner was it was value out so you have to ask yourself what the valuation is based on it was I can't remember the figures been but it was a valuation based on it being a commercial development valuation not a football ground yes this was going to be a football ground for a hundred years this 50-year lease with a unilateral option for the second 50 years it was valued at three points up in a commercial development we won't give that up in it we weren't developing it we wanted a football great it's our football ground for Christ's sake all we wanted to do was to sell it and lease it back and the only person in the end that was prepared to do it under sufferance was John Howard so my head says to me that what I should have done shortly after becoming chairman in January 2002 what I should have done has said to the board and the shareholders at that AGM at the end of January in 2002 when both Reg and I were here Reggie was standing down and I was taking over and and and that was announced that shareholders I should have said right up front that we are losing 600,000 and I am going to put this club into voluntary administration that's what I should have done then I don't think we were that we were said well we possibly could have survived if we if I'd have done that then by the time we got to 2004 it was too late to do that because the second thing that we've done the thing that we done that I mentioned earlier we got six hundred thousand from sterling and had we put gone into it so I can remember Dave Matthews Jones talking to me before towards at the end of 2004 before the deal with John Howard went through Dave said why don't we put it into administration now mr. chairman I think as if I do you'll lose the grip we'll lose the ground because sterling as soon as it in there they won't they'll take the ground I said we have to protect the ground we have to bit and he said well why don't you let the fans do it I said if you could raise two million now we'll talk about the two million a minute if you can raise two million by Christmas then yeah no way we can do that we've struggled to raise the hundred grand before in in similar time so I said well then John is the only way so I'm going to call the knee GM and I'm going to put it to the shareholders the rest is history however the next question I am sure that comes is well if you've got the two million why were we then having to go into administration at the end of the next season well it wasn't the end as it turned out and and that is something that I personally never imagined at the time we called the egm nor did any other director and nor did any other shareholder there had been an error made in the forecast cash flow remember I said we've got management accounts and the v80 repayment one error dat repayment had been emitted from the cash flow so we've solved the ground we've paid off everything we've paid off sterling we've paid off the bank loans we've paid off the bank overdraft we're we're we're Leopard we're on an even keel now oh no we're not which we thought about the bank that dat and that's why we ended up going into administration we tried to avoid it and we might just have avoided it if we could have stayed in the Football League but as soon as we knew we weren't going to stay in the foot believe that we owned rainbow Buster and he said my eye I insisted that I'd be a different chairman and I would be the voice of the board to the fans but the fans had stopped listening to me by that time I can understand why and it was as Ben said earlier it's largely to do with the the hundred grand and then selling Kitson know are bloody Harwood he he sold kits and label it readability had gone absolutely and then they'd been the various things like China and so suddenly the fans were gonna listen to me and to be honest if I don't let any of the other directors go talk to the fans we would have had World War three John so John's an interesting character he's a bit he's a good friend of mine now I didn't know him yes I assumed regularly we we have lunch together regularly he is here so he is a top guy and so so john-john convictable absolutely not john-john can be very gruff it can be very flippant John doesn't suffer fools gladly John as I said as I say is probably the most successful businessman that has ever ever been on the Cambridge United Board and I can't speak today's business men because I don't know them although I know of them and I would probably think that he's more successful than any of today's board members as well but he could be he doesn't suffer fools gladly and it fans us in the what a question that he thought was stupid he would tell us don't be sir that's any any walk away and that's why I had to be it could pick it and that's why the but some of the ball criticized me for being so open with the fact Gary why I talk to their fans yeah they don't understand what you're telling they do they see it they see one thing they don't see the big picture and when they all backfired and I started getting grief I can remember sitting in this boardroom and they all said we told you so yes absolutely over to buy back Liz's so there were two buyback clauses and I'd have to look at the contract to refreshments because it's it's 15 years ago the first buyback clause was within a couple of years and they could buy back the front end remember the front end of the ground was where the commercial revenue was going to come from we were going to franchise it to a hotel Fitness Club etc etc so there was an option to buy that back to carry on and do that development so that was in my view and the rest of the board's view and the rest of the board's view was a was a good option the second option was with and I think that first one was within two years and the second option was within a further either two years or three years I can't remember to be honest I'm and that was to buy the rest of the ground and there were there wasn't a sect figure there was a but there was a figure there was a reasonableness he he did you could have offered to buy it better for 2.5 million to guess what a sensible businessman would say can I see proof of funds is and guess what John Howard said can I see proof of funds could he see proof of funds Johnny horn could never demonstrate it now I don't know if you know Johnny horns history but he's he had to disappear some a year or two later for all sorts of things oh oh well there were all sorts of interesting deals that remember yeah I don't I don't want to be too critical of Chinese people because I've done business with many of them but they are they do operate very differently good way would whatever reason he would have told it that would you absolutely absolutely he would have sold it that if they'd have been proof of funds he was quite prepared to sell it but nobody could provide proof of funds now second time round when it was eventually sold to Grosvenor Dave Matthew Jones and Colin Proctor who was on Colin was on the board at the time so he was party to this they said we'd like to buy it through the fans trust you and they approached me for help and I did give him help at the time and I sat between them and John. John said they'll never do it I said look John let don't you talk to them because you'll really pissing off but let me sit in between them and I did but in the end they again they just couldn't do it in the time you know these things have to happen in a reasonable time and Grosvenor had made an offer to bide a while which let me repeat again I had not a single penny involvement in but by the war I have had not a single penny absolutely not there was absolutely an end and I've had not a single penny in from anybody I've never had a penny out of the Football Club or anyone associated with a Football Club I've had a lunch paid for by John Howard and I suspect he's probably had more lunches paid for by me I think we have pretty well whatever going and we absolutely appreciate you know a and B not from this apology mostly good you said that's understand of the work going to be issues that we couldn't go inhabit
United fans approved when the gentlemanly Roy’s first home game saw their lads beat Orient 2-0, with goals from Jamie Barnwell and Michael Kyd.
Making his football philosophy plain by posting ‘The worst crime in football is to give the ball to the opposition’ in the dressing room, he set about signing the likes of Ian Ashbee, David Preece and Abbey legend John Taylor, and bringing out Paul Wanless’s qualities, but United dropped out of promotion contention in his first season. The U’s were, Roy Mac opined, ‘a club in limbo’.
As financial imperatives forced the sales of Danny Granville, Jody Craddock and Micah Hyde, he was battling the bank as much as the opposition. But he managed his slim resources well and, after a disappointing 16th place in 1997/98, brought glory back to Newmarket Road the following season.
With emerging talent in the widely differing forms of Trevor Benjamin and Tom Youngs and brought-in strength in the likes of Alex Russell and Martin Butler, Roy took the U’s on an exhilarating League Cup run that ended in penalties at Nottingham Forest, and then promotion to the third tier as runners-up.
‘Now the aim is to continue to make progress, while always remembering that the bottom line is the survival of the football club,’ Roy told the press.
Sadly, progress proved beyond the club’s reach and United finished 19th in 2000. To make matters worse, there were simmering tensions between boss and board, and they boiled over when chairman Reg Smart sold Benjamin to Leicester while Roy was on holiday.
‘Feeling betrayed, I told [the board] exactly what I thought of all of them to a man – not the wisest thing to do,’ he observes in his autobiography.
The unrest seemed to spread to the dressing room, and on 27 February 2001 Roy and United parted company. He left praising the fans but ruing the directors’ attitude.
‘There was a lot of mistrust between myself and the board,’ he recalled later. ‘That’s the way football is and sometimes if you look back, we’d both regret it.
‘I had four and a quarter years there and I loved them because it’s a wonderful part of the world and I worked with some great people.’ We think you’re great too, Roy.
First published on the Coconuts blog 4th January 2016
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I'm the living embodiment of the spirit of the U's, and I'll be blogging whenever I've got news for you, as long as I don't miss my tea.