27 January ~ Crystal Palace going into administration is not surprising. The shocking state of the club's finances has been known for a while. What is a surprise is the outpouring of sympathy from Palace fans for Simon Jordan. Ignore the angry emails to news outlets. Have a look on some of the Palace message boards instead. Fans who have been frustrated with Jordan's reign have been describing the sadness they feel for a man who may have lost everything in an ultimately vain attempt to make a success of the football club he loves.
Simon Jordan is no Mark Goldberg, the man who bankrupted himself and the club in 1999. Jordan has not been taken for a ride by managers and agents. He may have been responsible for some uninspiring signings but at least there is no Walter Del Río lurking in his closest.
Jordan's tale is a complex one that mixes ego, falling attendances, shrinking revenue, increasingly bizarre marketing, deceit over the ownership of the ground, failure to fully develop a rich seam of youth team players, bizarre rants in the press and the making of too many enemies among agents and chairmen. His choice of manager has been his main downfall. Removing Steve Coppell so soon after buying the club and replacing him with Alan Smith could have been a masterstroke. After all, Smith brought back Dougie Freedman and took the club to the semi-finals of the League Cup. But with two games to go he was sacked with relegation and a fans revolt looming. Coppell's work with Reading shows what could have been achieved with the right backing.
The Steve Bruce appointment showed some promise but after he left to join the Ann Summers empire, the choices of Trevor Francis, Steve Kember, Iain Dowie and Peter Taylor were uninspiring. Dowie is lauded for the team's wonderful run to the play-offs in 2003-04 but he was fortunate to find a good group of players lacking only confidence. His subsequent track record suggests that he is better suited to being the new Chris Kamara than the next Steve Coppell. Neil Warnock has easily proved to be his best appointment. The quality of the football may be variable and goals often hard to come by, but his sheer belligerence is entertaining and unites supporters. He is the managerial equivalent of Simon Jordan only with a warmer wit.
It's a results business. Consequently Man Utd are currently able to carry debt. Palace cannot because although the debt is tiny in comparison, home defeats to Doncaster and Scunthorpe do not make investors so forgiving. So Palace join a select band of clubs to have entered administration twice. Despite this Jordan has proved to be an intriguing character and must be distraught to leave the club in this manner. He knew it was coming and his failure to secure new investment or raise sufficient transfer revenue to offset the mammoth payments to creditors will be heartbreaking.
Unlike Goldberg, Jordan will be welcome back at Selhurst Park. Whether football is still being played there is another matter. There will come a time when ambition and falling revenue will force a club into liquidation. Football will run out of Simon Jordans, debt-ridden Americans, sportswear retailers and oil-rich Sheiks eventually.
In the future perhaps everyone will own a football club for 15 minutes. After all, Chester City was put up for sale for £1 on Tuesday. Who wouldn't be tempted to make a quick buck by selling it on for £2? Who said there's no money to be made in football? Andrew Scowcroft