Jon Wainright takes a look at the flashy Chester City chairman, who may soon have to abandon his Aston Martin.
Distinguishing features Generally described as a Manchester based property dealer, but that could mean anything. Mark, a portly, balding, bespectacled chap in his late thirties, drives an Aston Martin and likes to be seen at away games with glamourous female company. Whether these poor women prefer swanky restaurants to Belle Vue and the McCain Stadium, Scarborough on a cold Tuesday night is open to debate.
Who remembers his birthday? Not too many people at present given that the club is awash with angry creditors. The Inland Revenue has been chasing £100,000 in unpaid taxes, the city council were owed £20,000 in rent arrears, and recently the kit washer withheld the away shirts following solicitors’ advice over outstanding bills.
The players aren’t too enamoured of him either. Having gone without pay for six weeks, an anonymous spokesman told the local press that they wanted Guterman to go so someone else could take over and restore credibility to the club. His future looks a little more secure since he flogged three of the players on deadline day, including a 17-year-old to Everton for £500,000. Meanwhile the majority of fans forlornly hope for a new owner. The club patron, the Duke of Westminster, offered to take over Chester of they played in his colours of gold and black. If he were to renew an interest now, they’d be more than happy to see the lads running out in vermillion and cerise spots.
What use is he? Perhaps Guterman’s only redeeming feature is that he is an outspoken critic of attempts to streamline the League, as per the recent ‘Planet’ options of which Ipswich chairman David Sheepshanks is a prominent exponent. At a recent fans’ forum he spoke passionately of his commitment to ensuring the survival of lower-division sides and slagged off Sheepshanks in no uncertain terms.
Other offences to be taken into consideration In 1996 Guterman courted national press coverage when fronting a consortium’s bid to take control of Manchester City. His intention was to develop Chester City as a feeder club. This quickly died a death when he was petitioned for bankruptcy. Shame really, because, on current form it would have been interesting to see who would have fed who. He also greatly angered Chester fans by a curious move allegedly designed to make the club more profitable. Season ticket holders of clubs outside the Third Division were allowed into the Deva Stadium for free, the idea being that they would like what they saw and return on a casual, fee-paying basis once the trial period was over. The plan backfired horribly. Hordes of Chester fans borrowed their Liverpool/Everton/Man Utd loving chums’ season tickets. Once in for gratis, they were verbally taunted by supporters of local rivals Wrexham and Tranmere who turned up just to take the piss (and it didn’t cost the bastards a penny).
From WSC 135 May 1998. What was happening this month