Gresley Rovers, Chris Wilder and a forgotten virtue
Posted by John Beech on April 28, 2009
While the media’s attention has been focussed on Darlington and Southampton of late, rather less attention has been paid to the plight of Gresley Rovers of the Northern Premier League Division 1 South. The club is past its ‘glory years’, when they were finalists (1991) and then semi-finalists (1993) in the FA Vase, and, although just above the drop zone this season in terms of place, definitely safe on the points tally.
As the noughties dawned, Gresley were beginning to struggle financially. In 2007 they took the bold step of buying their ground with the help of a grant from the local council (1). Perhaps this was a financial step too far. In April last year Chairman Mark Evans resigned with that too familiar cliché of having taken the club as far as he could (2). A group of local businessmen led by Mark Harrison stepped in (3), but by October there were rumours of impending Administration (4). Next month players were asked to play for nothing and an exodus began (5).
Earlier this month things had become so bad that the manager, Gary Norton, started managing for nothing and even subsidised the club from his wedding fund (6), a level of club committment that would be hard to match. On Friday Mark Harrison announced that, because of the club’s financial situation, Gresley Rovers were resigning from the Northern Premier League (7). The future of the club is far from clear – debt is described as ‘crippling’ and Administration may yet be the only option.
But please note, there was no fuss, the club considered their relationship with their league first, they did not seek a ‘holding company’ loophole, and by resigning they have behaved with a quality more present at these levels than higher up the pyramid – decorum.
Decorum is not a word one would rush to use about Chris Wilder, Oxford United’s manager. The club has been deducted five points for fielding an unregistered player, costing them a place in the play-offs. He has just described the Conference as “this poxy league” (8), a word rather more aptly might be applied to his approach to public relations. It will be interesting to see the response from the Conference, in which Oxford United will of course be playing next season. A 2 points deduction this season would mean they were denied a play-off place notwithstanding the existing 5 points deduction.