Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Surprises Just Keep On Coming

It isn’t exactly officially confirmed yet but it now appears as if Heaney’s interest in Argyle is over. Of course if he was only a representative for Bishop International all along, as he has always claimed, then we may yet have to wait to see the end of BIL’s interest.

You have to wonder just what Heaney has been playing at throughout this whole episode. Why bid a sum of money that you cannot deliver? Why buy exclusivity at a cost of a cool mi££ion? Having done that why not put the entire mi££ion in as promised so that the team you hope to buy at least has some hope? OK so he didn’t ever actually put that mi££ion in but he has put £300k in and that seems, to me, like a lot of money to lose in any context.

I suppose the signs of Heaney's eventual failure have been there all along. From the first moment that Heaney’s interest was rumoured sections of Argyle’s Cornish support started ringing the alarm bells. All was not well in Heaney’s corporate empire and Cornish Homes had collapsed leaving a lengthy list of unpaid creditors in circumstances almost exactly identical to the collapse of PAFC.

So the signs that Heaney’s bid was potentially problematic were there from the very start. As events unfolded there was nothing to stop the alarm bells ringing and as every deadline was missed and as every wage deferral was “agreed” so those bells rang faster and louder.

On 5th September I found myself in the Plymouth court building and as I hung around waiting I idly glanced at the notice board where the cases to be heard that day were listed and saw this:

"Truro City" leaped out at me straight away but I didn’t know what a disposal hearing was and had to look it up:

Where the defendant has admitted the claim, a disposal hearing may be necessary for the court to determine how the debt should be paid. Such a hearing will only be necessary where the court have insufficient information to determine the rate (or time) of payment, or you have challenged the rate (or time) of payment ordered by the court.

The court will give you and the defendant at least 14 days notice of the date and time of the hearing.

You must attend the hearing and tell the district judge why you do not accept the defendant's offer of payment (or the court's order) produce recent evidence of the defendant's means to support your argument.


So it appeared as though Heaney was having problems paying his solicitor’s bill. The following day this report appeared in the Herald: ... story.html

So all of that on top of a County Court Judgement for a relatively piffling £18k a while back suggested that Heaney simply couldn’t deliver.

And then on Friday two more bombshells exploded. A winding-up order being served on Truro City was one of them:

Obviously Heaney was unconcerned and it was all just somebody else’s fault or a mistake or something:

So the nightmare that has been haunting PAFC for months seems about to be unleashed down in Truro. I can only wish them well.

I said there was “two bombshells”. This is the second:,,10364~2460473,00.html

Just allow me a little backfill here…

Peter Ridsdale first emerged in an Argyle context as a guest of the old board. Apparently he had been on a walking holiday in the SW and, as an old mate of ex-chairman Paul Stapleton, had simply taken a game in. Then a couple of weeks later he was in the Directors’ Box at Oldham “a guest of the Oldham chairman” Argyle director Keith Todd assured us. “Pure coincidence. He lives nearby,” he said.

Ridsdale is obviously no stranger to football’s financial basket cases and not soon after that he was asked to help out as an “advisor”. At this point he started to act on Argyle’s behalf and was instrumental in raising the funding (a.k.a. selling everything in sight) needed to fend off HMRC’s relentless campaign. Most unreasonably HMRC seemed to believe that it ought to be paid the taxes, in full, due to it.

The fateful day arrived when Argyle could fight off the demands of the court and HMRC no longer. Argyle’s board of directors had long since ceased to function in any meaningful way and all they had done for weeks was bicker and finger-point. As the court recessed for lunch they finally agreed upon something. Ridsdale managed to convince the board to go into voluntary administration because the court was going to appoint an administrator once lunch was over anyway and at least this way there might still be a football club at the end of the process.

So Ridsdale picked up his phone and asked insolvency practitioner Brendan Guilfoyle to step in. He did. Guilfoyle then suspended (i.e. sacked) the board of directors en masse and with nobody to run the club Guilfoyle asked Ridsdale to act as CEO/Chairman as they set about finding a buyer to take the club on.

Essentially there were three bids and Heaney’s was the, ahem, “best” but Heaney had dual ownership issues seeing as he was owner and chairman of Truro City. To overcome this the plan was for Ridsdale to buy the club for £1 and for Heaney to buy the stadium and land.

So that was the plan. Except Heaney had no money and no apparent backers. And now the Heaney bid is history and five days after sacking Peter Reid as a manager, Ridsdale has announced that he is about to leave.,,10364~2460473,00.html

So what do we make of all of this? I suppose that Ridsdale has been true to his word. All along all he has said is that just wants to save Argyle. The saving now seems to be very close and Ridsdale seems set to leave. I think we’ll need to see him actually leave and then assess what, if anything, remains and then allow the dust to settle before his role can be properly assessed. If it ever can be at all.

Finally…. Argyle won a game yesterday!

A new owner on the horizon, council ownership of the stadium, no Heaney, no Ridsdale, no Guilfoyle, a new manager, goals, a win (!), a clean sheet…

Is it too early for a “Resurgam”?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Peter Reid Sacked! (and far, far more...)

Events at Home Park are moving at such a furious pace it is hard to keep up with it all. The latest bombshell has been the sacking of manager Peter Reid.

You would think that, given Argyle's recent form, the fans would be over-joyed at his dismissal but I don't think they are. I know that I am not. There is a feeling of deep shame attached to his sacking that I would rather not have to deal with. On purely footballing grounds there appears to have been no alternative. The following statistics completely support his dismissal:

Last win: 1-0 home to MK Dons 22/04/11

Last 3 games of last season: P3 D0 L0 F2 A8 (including defeat at bitter local rivals Exeter City)

Relegated, for only the second time in the club's history from that division, as the bottom side 8 points from safety (albeit following a 10 point deduction after going into administration).

Knocked out of both this season's League Cup and the Johnson's Paint Trophy (after a penalty shoot-out in which we failed to score even once against bitter local rivals Exeter City) in the first round.

League record this season: P9 W0 D1 L8 F5 A13.

Last 14 competitive games: P14 W0 D1 L13 F8 A23

Current league position: 92nd out of 92 and 6 points from the safety offered by being 89th.

Those recent stats include demoralising defeats at the hands of Burton Albion, Barnet and AFC Wimbledon who are teams that shouldn't even be in the same division as us, if all was right in the world, let alone deservedly beating us with such evident ease.

In normal circumstances the fans would be demanding his head on a plate. Sadly, as anybody vaguely aware of what has been happening at Argyle, these are not normal circumstances. Since his arrival as manager Peter Reid has had to sanction either the sale or release or has seen the club break contracts causing players just to walkaway, or has seen those contracts simply terminated, of around 30 players and he has only been our manager for 15 months! On top of that the coaching staff he has had to work with has dwindled in number so alarmingly that he had to recruit his brother to help out. And nobody has been properly paid for 9 months (and counting). A team in administration is allowed to have 20 players on its books; we have 18 and most of them are young and inexperienced. Many of them had not even started a game as a professional until this season. In Reid's last game i/c at Southend on Saturday the Southend players had made more appearances in green than the entire Argyle team added together!

Except some have been paid and, if rumours are to be believed, then they, or some of the youth teamers anyway, have been paid by Reid himself out of his own pocket. It doesn't stop there. Last winter was the coldest we have had for years. Even in sub-tropical Plymouth snow lay on the ground for weeks and matches were postponed due to the bitter cold. At this point the club was still deperately trying to battle against the inevitable financial implosion; one of the first signs of just how bad things were came when the fuel bill went unpaid causing the heating oil tank to run empty. As the club's staff shivered in their offices, and there was no hot water for players to shower under, the staff was, with incredible grace and understanding from the board (which was still in place at the time), "allowed" to wear their coats, scarves, gloves and woolly hats whilst working (I am NOT making this up). How gracious! "Gawd bless yer, Guvnor. A true gent y'are. Make no mistake" was presumably the expected response. Peter Reid, once again, reached into his own pocket and paid for a delivery of heating oil so that the radiators would work and the showers would run hot once again.

And then... As the months rumbled by the players and staff remained unpaid. By now the club was in administration and many of the staff had had their employment summarily terminated but a hardy few remained and they continued to work unpaid because if they did not then the club would quite simply cease to function at any level and would have been closed. Pasoti, a supporters' web forum, collected via cash donations; others collected money in buckets at matches and social events; a supporters organisation, the Green Taverners, was formed to raise some money to help the staff buy food, pay bills and generally make ends meet. One of the fund-raising activities was an auction of donated footballiana; Peter Reid donated his FA Cup Final medal.

Through what has been a blizzard of utter cack on and off the pitch Peter Reid has been a beacon of decency and selfless integrity. There has barely been a moan from him and he has been our talisman in many, many ways. He will always be welcomed back by supporters and there is nothing but gratitude and respect shown to him for the way he has conducted himself through what are basically intolerably impossible circumstances.

Results aside Reid's efficacy as manager seemed to be nearing an end during the most recent home game against Port Vale: Argyle's captain Carl Fletcher was named as a substitute; midfielder Simon Walton started at centre back; centre back Ladji Soukouna started in midfield. Port Vale scored an early goal and the team simply disintegrated. Walton was subbed, to prevent a seemingly inevitable red card as the red mist of frustration obliterated his judgement; Fletcher came on to replace him; Walton huffily trudged from the pitch having removed his shirt in obvious disgust at Reid's decision. Later a complete horlicks by Soukouna led to a penalty and his dismissal; defeat was assured; heads dropped alarmingly; Fletcher now looked as though he was trying to get himself sent off. It was a complete shambles.

Four days ago another defeat, this time at Southend, was endured and this time Fletcher snapped. It had all become too muchfor him, as he later admitted in a heartfelt post-match apology, and he guaranteed his dismissal by grabbing an opponent by the throat for no obvious discernable reason. The following day Reid was dismissed. The day after that Fletcher was appointed caretaker manager.

Reid's sacking came out of the blue and was a huge surprise but hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking at it now I suppose there was no real alternative. The reasoning behind the decision is obvious to all. The only unanswered question is: why on Earth did Reid stay here at all for as long as he did?

Reid deserves to have the last word on this and today it came, as humbly as is possible to imagine and totally without rancour, in the guise of a statement released via the League Managers Association:

Which leaves the on-going administration process...

As anticipated the Golden Share was never issued at that Football League meeting. Apparently the release of it was not even requested.

Before that meeting Heaney had promised to walk away if the Golden Share was not issued:

After the meeting Heaney promised that the deal was not dead:

But then he admitted defeat and a circus of potential new buyers emerged:

This signalled publicly the apparent demise of the Walter Mittyesque Heaney/BIL takeover once and for all and the loss of BIL's "preferred bidder" exclusivity. Despite a lack of any concrete confirmation from administrator Brendan Guilfoyle's P&A insolvency company, which is over-seeing the administration process, it appears that local businessman James Brent's bid is now the favourite to go through ~ at least it is the only bid that seems to have any chance of success in the time available before P&A gives up, cuts its losses, pulls the plug and liquidates the club.

Last Friday saw the near simultaneous release of press statements from Plymouth City Council, Peter Ridsdale (acting chairman/CEO) on behalf of PAFC and James Brent:,,10364~2453371,00.html,,10364~2452566,00.html,,10364~2452572,00.html

So it seems as if there is light at the end of the tunnel. The sketchy proposals seem to suggest that PCC has finally agreed to a plan similar to the one I suggested to council leader Vivien Pengelley in an email (unanswered) that I sent to her back in February:

Even to me all that time ago it was clear that there was no conventional business case to be made for the continuation of Plymouth Argyle as a football club: the mismanagement of the previous directors had been too thorough; the accumulated debts were too big. If PCC does eventually step in and buy the stadium and the land around it then it can do so safe in the knowledge that it is doing all it can to protect the image of the city on the national stage because the death of Argyle would hit home like a hammer blow. The nation's wider perception of the city of Plymouth as a place to do business in or with would be permanently ruined. PCC can also expect a good return on the costs it meets, compared to current market expectations, and should regard the expense as an investment and not a gift. Perhaps more crucially it would also gain complete control over the development of the land between Home Park and the nearly complete council-backed £50m Life Centre sport and leisure complex.

Oh! And what is the core business of James Brent's Akkeron Group? Hotels. Who was it that first proposed that a hotel could be built on the land next to Home Park? Vivien Pengelley. Does the Life centre have a hotel? You can join the dots yourself.

As an aside another of James Brent's companies is the surfware company Saltrock. If this deal does go through we can expect some seriously cool club merchandise to go on sale very soon!