AUG 01] THE STUART LINNELL
Rumours And Lies
Saturday morning, 4 August, 2001.
One week to go to the start of the new season, Coventry City’s
first in Nationwide League, Division One – and hopefully their
Starting my day by flicking
through the myriad of channels now brought my way via the
recently acquired mini-dish bolted to the side of my house I
stumble across Carlton Palmer being interviewed on Sky Sports
Saturday morning soccer preview show.
Needless to say he was quizzed
closely about the departure to Celtic of his “good friend”
“I do know,” Carlton
confided to the interviewer, “that John had promised
Coventry City that he would stay with them. The reasons for
that and then for his change of mind are private to John, but
my understanding is that when John was told about Celtic’s
interest he was told that they were offering between £1-million
“Whether he changed his mind
when he found out that the bid had gone up to between £6-million
and £7-million, I don’t know, but Coventry now face the
worry of having to replace him and I can’t see anyone being
prepared to sell them a striker. Last season, we all knew at
Christmas that we were going down because we had no-one to
score goals. With John gone, they’ve got the same problem
Sitting next to Carlton on the
Sky Sports sofa was former Southampton striker Ian Dowie. He
“John Hartson’s so-called
‘treachery’ had made Coventry a profit of £5-million.”
“Will that money win them
promotion?” he was asked.
“Like Carlton says,”
replied Dowie, “who’s going to sell them a striker? I
mean, Lee Hughes moving from West Brom to Coventry is just too
controversial to happen. I can’t see it myself.”
On a different channel, Leeds
United manager David O’Leary commented on the question of
“I disregard contracts
completely now,” he said. “They don’t mean anything any
more. Here at Leeds, my Chairman has done a fantastic job
persuading the players to stay when some of them could well
have moved on, but it’s got nothing to do with contracts.
It’s all to do with personal commitment, which players
should remember, has to be a two-way street.”
So, Coventry City are, for the
second successive season, facing a new start with the loss of
their prime goal-scorer. Last time it was Robbie Keane, now
it’s John Hartson.
Gordon Strachan has already
brought in veteran Phil Massinga and says he hopes to have
another new man in before next Saturday’s kick-off at
Let’s hope that’s all he has
to worry about with reports of Liverpool renewing their interest
in ‘keeper Chris Kirkland while Everton apparently want Magnus
While all this is going on, the
pub talk is about the players leaving and the cash rolling in.
Typical of what is being said is
this overheard snippet:
“the current word is the
Chairman is selling as many players as he can to cut debts and
the wage bill and he will then look for an exit route for
himself so someone else can rebuild the club with fresh
Similar versions of that are
being voiced by those who claim to know, or at least claim to
know someone who knows.
Whether there is any truth in it,
I do not know. I do know, however, that the Chairman, Bryan
Richardson has never ducked any direct question I have put to
him, either as part of a radio or TV interview or privately and
off the record.
Have I asked him whether this
latest rumour has any truth to it? Simply, no, because if he
said “no”, those who prefer to repeat the story would just
say “well, he’s hardly likely to admit is he?” and what
follows from that is that he is hardly likely to say “yes”.
I have also been reporting
football in general and in Coventry in particular long enough to
know that stories that do the rounds on the streets may have a
grain of truth to them, but usually don’t, yet gather momentum
and become more and more embellished as they do so.
So, believe it if you like. I
will simply repeat what Bryan Richardson said to me when I asked
him about the likelihood of a takeover of the club by nightclub
owner George Hendry.
As I reported on CWN at that
time, Bryan’s reply was “the board of Coventry City Football
Club will always consider any serious proposal from anyone
interested in investing in the club.”
And who would blame the Chairman
if he did decide to call it a day and walk away from the stick
and the criticism. You know the old saying that starts: “if
you can’t stand the heat….”? Well, I reckon the Highfield
Road kitchen has been as hot as it gets for the past couple of
years and Bryan Richardson has stood the heat throughout.
So, if he really is thinking
about moving on, good luck to him. Except, I’m not so sure
that that’s his style.
Look at his reaction to the
Hartson “treachery” as he saw it. Why was he clearly so
genuinely angry if his only motive was to bring in a few million
to help clear the books?
Hartson’s response was telling,
too. He refused to criticise the Chairman who he described as
“a great guy”. John knows that until Coventry City came up
with an innovative way of getting round his medical problem
(and, by the way, he has NOT passed a medical at Celtic, not in
the accepted sense anyway) he was stuck in a soccer backwater at
You, as a Coventry City
supporter, will have your own view, your own opinion of Bryan
Richardson and the job he has done and continues to do as
Chairman. You are perfectly entitled to that view.
All I can tell you is that, at
first hand, Bryan has only ever been straight and completely
fair with me as both a representative of the media, as a private
individual, and as a Sky Blues supporter.
I have no particular axe to grind
on his behalf or otherwise. Like other fans, there are some
decisions that have been taken, for which Bryan has no doubt
been at least in part responsible that I have queried and
disagreed with, just as there have been actions taken that I
have applauded loud and long.
So when you hear the pub talk and
the street gossip, make up your own mind.
Will Bryan Richardson still be
part of the club twelve months from now? Is he balancing the
books by selling players for his own sake or is he working, with
the bank manager and other investors in mind, to keep the
finances in line? Will the new stadium ever be built, with or
without it becoming the new National Stadium? Will we have a
squad good enough for Gordon Strachan to work with and take us
back to the Premiership?
Just remember there is more going
on than either you or I know about or, probably, will ever know.
What was the title of that great
Fleetwood Mac album from years ago? Oh yes, 'Rumours And Lies'.
Could have been about football,