They say that history of warfare
is written only from the perspective of the winners.
Either a winning or a losing perspective on this season
of football would be helpful but at the time of writing
everything hinges on the last match. Whatever happens
on the 6th May 2000 will determine whether this was
indeed, for Chester, a season of The Great Escape or
an end to their sixty-nine year stay in the Football
League while we go on loan to the Conference. The threesome
reel we’ve had with Shrewsbury and Carlisle over the
last few weeks has been compelling for the neutral
but absolute agony for the committed. You don’t need
me to tell you. The fact that we have any sort of chance
of staying up on the last day of the season is in itself
a remarkable achievement given our position a few months
ago. Ian Atkins’ friends thought he was crazy to take
the job on – even he looked on saving Chester’s League
status as “The ultimate challenge”. For the way in
which he has turned our fortunes round – even if, in
the end, we are unsuccessful – he deserves our heartfelt
gratitude. So too do the players, both those who Atkins
has recruited since Christmas, but more especially
those who have stayed the course right through the
season. Let’s record our thanks also to Terry Smith
for appointing Ian Atkins when he did and for rescuing
the club in the first place.
I hope that the enclosed proves to
be a fitting souvenir of a successful Great Escape.
The momentum gathering as survival seemed to be attainable
has been tremendous. The level of support City have
generated has been superb. The ISA should be congratulated
once again for their part in galvanising the fans.
Even if City prove unsuccessful it has been a valiant
effort to survive and one which has gathered some of
our lost sheep supporters back into the fold.
And if the worst comes to the worst
then look out for a Hello Albert guide to the Conference
next season. Whatever happens I intend to be back next
season – and hope that you will be too.
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Messages of support and solidarity
have been coming in on the internet from all over the
world and from the fans of other clubs – even our rivals
for the drop to the Conference. Perhaps the most touching
one of all though came in the teletext message from
a Wrexham fan. It said that most of their fans want
Chester to stay up – “We couldn’t care less about Shrewsbury.” Perhaps
for the fans of Wrexham, if Chester did not exist (as
a league club) it would be necessary to invent them
IT’S NOT OVER ’TILL IT’S OVER
Even if Chester ensure survival as
a League club on 6th May they have an important date
with destiny only two days later. That’s when the Football
League will hear Kevin Ratcliffe’s case against the
club for settlement of the contract he claims to have
been given under the previous regime. Ratcliffe is
claiming that his contract allowed him to leave within
six months of a change of ownership and promised him
a year’s salary times the number of years he had been
at the club. The figure being bandied about is £200,000.
It would appear that this was a contract that the previous
chairman, with the club heading for administration,
had no intention of honouring.
A sense of reasonable justice would
say that there is no way that Terry Smith and the present
club should have to pay a penny of what Ratcliffe is
claiming. If Terry wasn’t told about the contract when
he bought the club are not administrator David Acland
and Begbies Traynor liable in some way? But we will
have yet another anxious wait – City fans are quite
attuned to hearing about their club involved in legal
disputes by now – can it be more nerve-wracking than
the last few weeks?
It seems the bitterest of ironies
that Chester’s win at Shrewsbury back in November paved
the way for Kevin Ratcliffe to eventually be appointed
manager at Gay Meadow and that the end of the season
sees us locked in a tussle for relegation. Kevin has
made no secret of his dislike of Terry Smith. It would
be a huge pity if it clouds his memory of the club
he served so well. Let’s hope Monday 8th May brings
an amicable end to the matter for all concerned. We
can then take a well deserved rest from it all.