Thursday 5 June ~
Ken Bates has been quiet lately. It's not unusual that a 76-year-old man should be taking things easy but this is someone who has thrived on the public attention generated by his involvement with football. Had Leeds Utd won promotion back to the Championship it is a certainty that he would have been all over the papers crowing about his victory over the football establishment. That opportunity was taken away by Doncaster Rovers at Wembley. Today, however, he has broken cover.
Bates is back with an attack on the way Roman Abramovich is running Chelsea, specifically on the protracted search for a new manager. They will, Ken concedes, eventually “find someone to take the Russian rouble”. Of course, Bates pocketed a few roubles – in sterling terms, around £17 million – when selling up to Abramovich in 2004. Elsewhere in the article, Bates says of Peter Kenyon: “Here is a man who is so thick-skinned he doesn't understand the effect of some of the things he does.” There are a few people like that, Ken.
Meanwhile, another Premier League club owner who doesn't appear to know anything about football, Thaksin Shinawatra, seems determined to press on with a bid to sign Ronaldinho, although it is hard to believe that his new manager Mark Hughes would be in favour. "We need a culture of discipline at our club," says Thaksin, while apparently not aware of any contradiction in his pursuit of a player that Barcelona are happy to release, now that he's past his best and, more to the point, renowned for partying.
Brooks Mileson's wealth is on a much smaller scale than Abramovich or Thaksin but the millions he injected into Gretna over a six year period had a major impact on Scottish football. The game is up now, however, with Gretna being wound up with debts of £4m. Gretna's demise leaves a vacancy in the Scottish league that is expected to be filled by either Cove Rangers from the Highland League or Spartans, an Edinburgh side who picked up some former supporters of Meadowbank Thistle when their club was moved, contentiously, from the Scottish capital to the new town of Livingston in 1995. Meadowbank were the first club to disappear from the Scottish league since Third Lanark from Glasgow went bust in 1967. Now they too may be on their way back.
The experiment in club ownership, myfootballclub, which took charge of Ebbsfleet United in the Conference during 2007-08, is about to be tried out in Scotland and the recently revived Third Lanark are one of the sides they are interested in backing. Of course, anyone who's attracted by that proposition could instead just get behind one of the existing lower league clubs in Scotland – but perhaps that's just not quite “fun” enough for the new soccer fan.