Simon Corney suggesting players refund fans
2 December ~ When things aren't going well, football club owners tend to be a predictable bunch, as recent events have shown. QPR followed a well trodden path, first with an endorsement of the hapless Mark Hughes and then, apparently after thoroughly modern consultation by international phone call, packed him off. Chelsea's treatment of Roberto di Matteo had a John le Carré twist, as the Russia owner's henchmen did the deed in the dead of night. All of which makes the behaviour of Oldham Athletic's owner, Simon Corney, a little more refreshing.
Corney was one of three American-based British businessmen who bought the club out of administration in 2003. When his two partners stepped down for financial and personal reasons in 2010, he became chairman. With the club haemorrhaging money and no other significant investors consistently involved, he can hardly have seen their departure as a lucky break.
Since he became involved, with his partners and on his own, more traditional hire and fire approaches have been tried –depending how you count some of the temporary stays, nine managers have come and gone. Corney's new tactic is to publicly criticise the players. He will not be the first to take that route but few before can have called a club's playing squad "gutless tripe" as Corney did in the local paper after a recent defeat to Bury. Alleging the kind of misplaced complacency bred by 17th place in the league he suggested that the team should refund fans "from their own pockets".
Interestingly, he gave an insight into the way player contracts work at League One level when he said that the club had paid around £4,000 in appearance money for the Bury game. Corney has form for public criticism. His pithy summary of the 1-1 draw with Walsall in August was pretty accurate: "It is horrible to watch. There is no entertainment and no value and I don't blame the crowds for staying away. Why would you come and watch that?"
Predictably, his comments have brought a mixed response from fans, with many contributors to message boards welcoming what one described as "refreshing honesty". Almost as predictable have been the "responses" from players and the manager Paul Dickov. Their expressions of shock and disappointment, both at the chairman's comments and the team's performances, offered no real insight. Denials of any rift between manager and chairman were accompanied in the local paper by an unfortunate picture of the grinning pair at a fans' forum.
A common thread in all of the comments is that because Corney funds the club he has the right publicly to express his views as forcibly as he wishes. But that argument sounds suspiciously like the one used to justify outrageous and unacceptable comments from fans: they pay their admission and therefore have the right to shout what they want at players. There's no doubt that Corney deserves the thanks of all Oldham supporters for keeping the club alive when all rational advice must be telling him to sell up and get out. But, however entertaining his outburst might be, and however much it helps to create a fellow feeling with some fans, it's not obvious to me how it helps us to climb the league table. That's what I want to hear from the club chairman. Brian Simpson