You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
And don’t mess with Mr In-between
So goes the old Bing Crosby song.
Since Terry Smith arrived as Chester City’s saviour
in the summer there hasn’t been much messing with Mr
In-between. Terry arrived talking up Chester’s prospects
and the dawn of a new era for the club. Positive expectations
were stirred in the hearts of the City faithful. Despite
our recent history we are an eternally optimistic lot.
We desperately want to believe in anyone who has a
vision of success for our Football Club after so many
false dawns and broken promises.
The euphoria that greeted the news
of Terry Smith’s buy-out in August has tarnished somewhat
in the mean time. Terry’s strategy for turning Chester
round from a club which haemorrhaged money to one which
broke even was bound to mean some drastic changes.
And we have found them hard to take;
• We winced when admission prices
were hiked up.
• We waited anxiously for City players to sign up to new contracts.
• We were stunned when Kevin Ratcliffe walked out.
• We flinched when City’s wafer thin and inexperienced squad were beaten at home
by journeymen Third Division sides.
• We grew frustrated at City’s inability to get off the bottom of the League.
• We grew more cynical as the signing of players from abroad fell through.
But if we learned anything from last
season’s campaign to save the club, we should have
learned to act positively together. The tactics needed
in the campaign to oust Guterman and then to shame
the local public and media into supporting one of their
most valuable assets worked extremely well. But now
that we are part of the establishment – with three
ISA members on the board – our strategy will need to
be different. When there is a common objective it is
easy to unite everyone to the cause – just look at
Whyteleafe’s rallying of players and management to
build a new stand for their game against us recently.
When Mark Guterman was public enemy number one, as
far as we were concerned, it was easy.
Keeping the club going through administration
was really hard work. It was a superb effort but it
took a toll on the personal lives of ISA members – especially
those on the committee. Nor could we have expected
the sympathy of other supporters – magnificent though
it was last season – for yet another campaign. So it
was a great relief when Terry Smith stepped in to buy
the club out of administration. Not only that he offered
the ISA places on the board. This was an unbelievably
good offer. Even more important – there was no alternative.
No other buyer or consortium came in with an offer
even though we know there were more rumours, counter
rumours and mystery buyers talked about than we could
shake a stick at.
Now it is less clear what the role
of the supporters should be. We want to get behind
the team and the management but are anxious about the
team’s fortunes on the pitch first and foremost. Not
surprisingly there are divided opinions between City
supporters – opinions which are genuinely and passionately
held on different sides. We shouldn’t be afraid of
this – although there has been too much of a personal
element in some of the criticism. We have got ISA meetings,
some Fans Forums promised and most important of all
three members of the ISA on the board. We are better
placed than ever before to make sure our voices as
supporters are heard. We have to make the most of these
relatively new opportunities – we had to struggle hard
enough to achieve them.
Personal abuse either of players
or the chairman is uncalled for and will only produce
negative results. Understandably frustrating though
the situation is at the moment, tempting though it
is to howl at the latest player to miss a tackle or
yell at Terry Smith when results go against us. All
this will achieve is to give the players even less
confidence and Mr Smith to wonder whether it’s worth
Chester needs proactive supporters
who can be constructively critical. Let’s not go back
to the old days when all we could and did do was moan.
If we disagree with what’s happening let’s do so reasonably
and rationally. The other side of the bargain is that
Terry Smith and the ISA board members must listen to
us and respond to us. So that if, for instance, most
of the fans feel we need an experienced manager to
get us out of trouble – then we ought to be able to
put this opinion through the ISA board members. And
we should expect an answer. We may not like it. It
may be we cannot afford the wages of a decent manager.
If that is in fact the case and there are figures to
prove it – at least we will know where we stand. It
may be that we have to settle for the fact that survival
of the club is a higher priority than hanging on to
our League status.
We need the two-way flow of communication
and, through the ISA we must keepthe club to their
assurance of openness and accountability that was promised
in the open letter to supporters at the beginning of
the season. But let’s do it calmly and avoiding personal
insult or we will be in danger of wrecking what ever
future Chester City FC might have.