Terry Dolan had one. David Lloyd had one. Everybody who enrolls at Weight Watchers has one. No, not a B.O. problem, I’m talking about ‘five-year plans’. You may also remember, amidst all the DTI and Fraud Squad investigations, court appearances, transfer embargoes, negotiations with Lloyd and the lock out, that Nick Buchanan also had a ‘five-year plan’. To be in Division One by 2004, he said, and I lapped it up like John McGovern would a can of Special Brew.
Now, in the 2000/2001 season, it seems unlikely we’ll be promoted come May, which leaves just three years of unlikely upward momentum to spoil the Hull City tradition of bullshitting chairmen. It has taken the board two years to drag the team from the foot of the table (for which I’m eternally grateful) to where we were when Dolan fucked off. At this rate of progress, we be in the division’s top half by 2003. And at the moment, we are about 2000 down on the average gate the board need to break even, and they don’t seem to have a contingency plan. Oh bollocks.
The combination of winding up orders and transfer embargoes have left me wondering whether Mr Buchanan had a plan at all, never mind a five year one, in spite of him delivering a top drawer manager who, backed properly, could win anything thrown at him. Brian Little has the best track record of all Division Three managers, however he has not been appointed to bring his top-flight and European football experience to Boothferry Park.
Brian Little has been appointed because of his record with Darlington, who he dragged from the bowels of non-league football to the Division Four championship on virtually no budget. Mr Buchanan has already gone on record with the heart warming news that Brian can only bring in the striker we so desperately crave on loan, and that having no money should not be much of a problem to a man like Brian, but if Mr. Buchanan expects Brian to repeat his Darlo feats here, he should take into account that a few things are slightly different to back then.
For a start, Little’s 1991 championship outfit were already on a high after winning the Conference by a mile, they weren’t a demoralised bunch of prima-donnas who’d spent years in the lower reaches of the basement together. Secondly, Brian released almost all of Darlo’s squad and replaced them with players who actually wanted to play there. Whilst here Brian has released half a squad and managed to scrape together some last minute signings to add to the players already at his disposal, players who either can’t be arsed, are under-motivated or are jetting off to El Salvador to play for their country and getting injured in the process (why can’t Jamie Wood get more Cayman Island call ups?)
Also, football in general has changed. In 1991, every club in the bottom division was skint to the point of extinction, with Aldershot and Maidstone falling by the wayside. Now the club is competing with the likes of Cardiff, Chesterfield and Darlington themselves, all bankrolled by rich and generous sugar daddies. I am still unsure as to whether Buchanan is un-rich or un-generous, but by coming here Brian Little has probably picked the worst place to resurrect his management career as he is never going to be backed properly by this board. It took Cliff Britton five years to achieve anything here, coincidentally the same amount of time it took him to prise open Harold Needler’s wallet. Hanging about waiting for some support from above is not in Brian Little’s style. He’ll just fuck off. And who can blame him?
His cheap and cheerful signings so far have been excellent, Musselwhite is the first goalkeeper at City since Roy Carroll who doesn’t appear to grease his gloves in Brilliantine prior to a match, Brightwell is a slow but necessarily solid stopper, Philpott is the first City player who can take set pieces for fucking ages and Marcelle is exciting to watch (though not an out-and-out striker) who deserves a contract. Had Brian Little been given just a piffling £300,000, the fee splashed out by Cardiff for Leo Bad-Fortune-West, we would surely be in the top three by now.
We knew that this sort of money would definitely not be available, but if the club were willing to take a gamble on Joycey last season, why can’t this be done for Brian? He can be trusted, unlike Warren, to deliver something in return. However the pre-season embargo damaged that option, though in my opinion, Brian would not have been able to sign any more players than he did, never mind a wide player, a central midfielder and most importantly, a proven goal scorer.
The City hierarchy seem to be secretly crossing their fingers and hoping that Brian Little is a miracle worker, while Brian crosses his fingers that some capital will emerge from somewhere other than player sales. While Brian says we can hope for no more than mid-table, the board say Brian can take us up. Nick Buchanan appears confident that promotion can be attained, but I personally don’t believe that he gives a fuck.
Lat season, despite the boards over budgeting, the club brought in Whitmore and Goodison on (allegedly) two grand a week each, I thought it was to improve our league position. However the sales of captain Dave D’Auria, misused waste of talent Gareth Williams and the big striker we now desperately need Colin Alcide to make ends meet pissed on that bonfire. Theo and Ian were simply signed in the hope that they’d be worth one million a piece in six months. Although I never felt we were going to achieve promotion under Joyce, he was hard done by in this respect. He was allowed to bring in new players over the summer (admittedly most of them were shit) before having three first teamers sold from under him. The club had gone back on their ‘five year plan’ after six months.
The capture of Brian Little was a masterstroke, but I fear it won’t be long before he gets pig sick of unpaid rent, winding up orders and buggers off as the chairman presides over a stagnant Division Three club, in which case they may as well have appointed Rod Arnold.
Mr Buchanan being a good spin doctor as (if not better than) Alistair Campbell, rarely resists the temptation to have a dig at Tom Belton. Now I’m no believer in Belton as the next Don Robinson, let alone a Jack Walker, and I particularly agree with the point that he is ambitionless and may be satisfied to keep us in Division Three.
Nonetheless I’ve had enough winding up orders in the last decade to last me forever, and they are becoming more frequent now then they ever where in the Dolan/Fish era. The club’s reputation has been dragged through dog shit umpteen times during the present chairman’s reign, and there is no sign of us escaping Division Three with Nick Buchanan at the helm.
Although every season in this division is another step towards extinction, I’d rather the club went bust with it’s reputation intact. I’d also prefer a chairman with whom you knew where you stood, with whom you didn’t have to read between the lines and whom you believed when he explained where the latest gate receipts from a cup tie with a Premiership team had gone.
Mr Buchanan had his chance, he’s had two years to bring about an improvement and he hasn’t done so. He’s unlikely to be driven out of the club either, as the fans have already seen off Fish, Needler and Lloyd already and, I believe, are far too jaded for another scrap with the men in suits.
Compare his reign with Lloyds however and you’ll see a few similarities, big crowds but still losing money, cup-tie proceeds vanishing, a question mark over where we’ll be laying in the future and a big name manager who isn’t being backed.
These are the differences; Lloyd put more money in than Buchanan has so far, £300,000, Lloyd’s henchman Appleton creamed off less (allegedly) than Buchanan’s chum Hinchliffe, and Lloyd never went cap in hand to the PFA.
However Lloyd has cost the club in rent and called you and I crap while Buchanan, significantly, is a great PR guy, with Blunderside hanging off his every (swear) word as Lloyd (twat though he is) painted as the baddie every time Nick and Co. drop a bollock.
Five years ago, Gillingham began a ‘five year plan’ of their own following receivership, under the stewardship of Millwall boot boy Paul Scally. Five years on, the Gills have gone up twice, played at Wembley, and are making a mockery of every one who predicted they’d become Divison One’s whipping boys.
The team that got them out of the basement division was no better than one we have now, their gaffer was a nobody who spent a mere £100,000 and they had attendances of around 4,000. The thing that got them started in the first place was simply this; when the chairman said he had devised a five year plan, he meant it.
The longer Nick Buchanan remains, the more damage is done to Hull City. I appreciate that I’m out on a limb saying this, but the appointment of Brian little has pacified many, but there is only so much shit the fans can swallow. The latest winding up order must surely be the last straw.
Look at little Gillingham, while they entertain Fulham and Blackburn, we entertain Rochdale and Torquay. That’s how you run a football club Nick.