Wednesday 7 January ~
Much like his ventriloquist namesake, Keith Harris’s time in the sun may be over. For a few years the merchant banker held the hopes and dreams of every Premier League chairman in his hands, facilitating the sales of Chelsea, Aston Villa, West Ham and Manchester City to wealthy foreign owners. But that is where the list may end, and the man who is predicting this is Harris himself: “We're in the toughest economic situation anybody has endured in our lifetime and that means we are unlikely to see much activity on the football takeover scene.” (NB Is it me or is the football takeover scene the most unappealing scene since grebo?)
Mike Ashley recently removed Newcastle from the market after failing to find a buyer while Harris remains in charge of finding a buyer for Everton, a situation that can be best described as “quiet”. For those looking for slightly more whimsical evidence of belt-tightening, on Sunday the Observer reported that times are so bad at Chelsea that players have had their complimentary ticket allocation cut from eight to four, poor blighters. Times are hard, as Harris points out: “Clubs have been overspending, with ordinary players commanding huge transfer fees and wages. The climate has changed, and takeovers are not going to be the solution to the woes that they may have been two years ago.” Fans of West Ham and Manchester City may question if this was ever the case.
Elsewhere there was some slightly more heartwarming news, with the appointment of Nigel Clough at Derby County. The symbolism of the appointment of the son of the club’s greatest ever manager is obvious, however while this may have swayed Derby towards Clough it can be of little doubt that his achievements with Burton Albion more than warrant a chance to manage at a higher level. Since being appointed at Burton in 1998 Clough has taken them from the Southern League to 13 points clear at the top of the Conference and surely on the way into the Football League for the first time in their history.
Clough has been promised the same level of patience from Derby chairman Adam Pearson, but with little money to spend and the side sitting 18th in the Championship he has a tough job on his hands. Be it through misplaced sentiment or not, it is hard not to wish Clough junior luck. Josh Widdicombe