THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Owen Oyston saved Blackpool from the brink of bankruptcy. David Blundell looks at the controversial businessman

Distinguishing Features Take the Emperor Ming, dress him in the archetypal football manager sheepskin and stick a six gallon hat on his head. You now have Owen Oyston. At least, that was Owen a year ago. Now, denim shirt and trousers with arrows are more his line (he is now in Pentonville prison for the unusual crime of using undue influence to talk a girl into sexual congress).

Habitat Owen Oyston was born in 1934, the son of a miner. Yes it’s one of those irritating rags to riches stories. After trying a number of occupations with varying degrees of success (including shoe salesman and actor) he began the journey which led to his fortune, setting up an estate agents later sold for millions.

He then developed an interest in media, running radio stations and a tabloid newspaper. It would appear that these connections earned him political opponents, which Oyston alleges have played a not insignificant part in his current vacation at Her Majesty's Pleasure. Vicki Oyston is chair of the club in Owen’s absence.

What use is he Oyston took over Blackpool when it was on the brink of bankruptcy and despite some protest during his tenure, it is difficult to think of many benefactors who would step into his shoes. His stay has been mixed and often confused, including a time where there was a ‘buy a player’ fund‚ when the fans paid half the fee for Andy Watson, now moved on.

The last couple of years have seen a number of new players and reasonable money spent for the division, consolidating the club’s position and just falling short of the play offs.

The most perplexing aspect at the club is the dilapidated state of the ground and the proposed Super Stadium which has gone through an amazing array of guises over many years. We have been told to expect a 40,000 capacity ground complete with shopping centre, conference centre, training pitches, hotel and so on.

Financial backing and council support seem to be there one minute and gone the next. Just when all parties seem happy, the plans change and we’re back at stage one.

What is going through Owen’s mind while he’s doling out soup in the canteen one daren’t imagine. Not a single trough has been dug on the site near Blackpool and I think most fans will only believe it when they see it.

One problem the chairman has had recently is not being able to keeping managers for more than a year. We are on our fourth in five years. Billy Ayre, one of the most popular in recent years was sacked. Sam Allardyce, after failing to get automatic promotion by a point in his first stab at management, was sacked. Gary Megson left for Stockport. How long Nigel Worthington stays remains to be seen.

Who remembers his birthday?
Oyston’s popularity has been up and down over the years with angry cries for his resignation when we’ve narrowly avoided relegation and when he sacked Ayre, to a rapturous reception when he appeared on the pitch with a scale model of the (then) plans of the new stadium. We are a very fickle bunch.

I think many fans, myself included, are perplexed by the contradictions in the man. Deep down he has the club and football in his heart but essentially his business interests drive any decisions he makes.

From WSC 132 February 1998. What was happening this month

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