A VIEW FROM THE WEST STAND
Colin has set me quite a task this
time and that is to comment on a season that will be
decided over the last game to be played. I am writing
before the Peterborough game on 6th May which will
decide our fate. At least our fate is in our own hands – a
win and we’re safe. But the way this roller coaster
of a season has gone, I feel there are a few twists
and turns left in it yet. The Posh game will be full
of nervous tension, bitten fingernails and radios clasped
to ear holes.
But how on earth have we reached
this position in a season before which we were told
that we would be in the First Division in three years?
Well, I think that statement and Mr Smith’s takeover
of the club have been well chronicled before on these
pages. I think I said in the last edition of Hello
Albert that it was a mistake to let Kevin Ratcliffe
leave the club when he did – and without an adequate
replacement. I still do and how ironic that he could
decide the future of his former club both in terms
of its League position and, financially, in the sense
of his legal action against us. Questions have to be
asked of the previous administration as to how the
former manager was given a contract which enabled him
to leave the club when he wanted to with (as reported)
a £200,000 pay off? Leave the club he did and that’s
history now. But even after that, mistakes were made.
Terry Smith, with absolutely no experience
in football, decided to take over the managing of a
Third Division League Club. He determined he could
do it – although it was patently obvious to everyone
else that he couldn’t (Though no doubt he has had some
success with the financial side). He persevered with
the job whilst the team remained firmly at the bottom
of the League. Even the introduction of international
stars (Who patently weren’t up to it) could not save
the club from their doom. At this stage they were near
certainties for relegation to the Conference at the
end of the season.
Pressure from the media and supporters
forced him to concede that he needed a proper manager.
This he did, albeit a month too late. Our fate at the
end of the season may show the significance of that
lost month over Christmas.
Without doubt Terry Smith’s decision
to appoint Ian Atkins as “Director of Football” (If
we survive) is the best one he’s made in his time at
the club. When he was appointed most supporters were
saying, “Ian who?” But Atkins with his no nonsense
approach has transformed a side that was in free-fall
out of the League into a side that has begun to show
promotion form. Looking at the worst possible scenario – if
we do go out of the League – Ian Atkins would be the
one person I would bet on to get us back in again.
His success in creating a winning side out of nothing
in three months won’t have gone unnoticed elsewhere,
however, and one wouldn’t blame him for wanting to
enjoy League football at another club. If we survive – his
services must be retained – at all costs – as he can
bring this club success without a doubt.
Atkins has brought some great battlers
to the club. What a great acquisition Stuart Hicks
seems to be for example. Hicks is a true winner and
has built up a great rapport with the supporters already.
Whilst mentioning the supporters – how good it is to
see the Deva filled on a regular basis. I’m sure that
if we can retain our League position, these supporters
will keep coming back.
On a personal level I was delighted
to see Ian Atkins keeping Neil Fisher in the team – his
performances have proved that there is always room
for a good footballer in the side.
If we are to survive in the Football
League, Ian Atkins must be given total control of the
playing side of the club as manager and Terry Smith
take up his proper role in the boardroom. His cavorting
around the pitch before the game along with some of
his programme notes are embarrassing. I don’t doubt
his sincerity but Terry Smith must realise that there
is a world of difference between running an American
Football team and an English Football League club – never
the twain shall meet.
So there we are. If you are reading
this after the Peterborough game – lucky you! I’ve
got another ten days of fractured nerves and a rumbling
stomach till then.
Good luck to everyone at Chester
City and, whatever happens, see you at the Deva in