Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Voices of Dissent

Not everybody is fawning with gratitude at the feet of Sam Hammam. Here are some emails that I have received from less enamoured Cardiff City fans.

It's shades of grey though, isn't it ? If you want to call it a bereavement, then I will be taking the same actions as I took when the Queen Mother's passing was "celebrated" at PN - except I won't be in a seat on Saturday that I can remain seated in, quietly. By the same token, if others want to applaud him, that's their choice, and that's up to them. I won't be joining in, but I do respect others' rights to do so if they so choose.

Eric, you're right on the legacy - take away the means, throw in a bit of luck, and the club is marginally in a better place now than it was 6 years ago. Where were we exactly ? Sloshing around the lower leagues, no money to sign decent players, no sustainable long term infrastructure. Prognosis ? On a blunt kitchen knife edge - we could have gone down to the Conference - or someone with a few pennies could have come in (probably a couple of million), stabilised the club, and realistically, we would have spent the foreseeable future at a slightly tarted up Ninian Park, oscillating between the Third and Fourth Divisions.

Instead, we got Sam. Due to family connections, and some previous, he was able to get his hands on a bit more than a couple of million, and therefore in six years,
he's delivered two promotions, and we've had a decent first quarter to this season. We have an Academy, which has started to produce good players. Some dreadful purchases - Barker, Prior, Gavin Gordon - and many forget David Hughes, who even before injury struck him down prematurely hardly looked like a half million pound player. Rumours of grossly inflated wages. So as well as the positives, we also have a £30m debt. We're on a very sharp machete edge - we saw the shape of things potentially to come on Black Friday - home grown heroes being sold in a fire sale. There is no permanence in the Academy. And I mentioned his previous earlier - Wimbledon, from non league football, to the FA Cup and half a dozen years in the Premier League - their fans had a great time for half a generation. But where are they now ? And how much heartache has that caused along the way ? How do you begin to weigh up the pleasure against the pain of lifelong Wimbledon fans - but moreover, what right has one man got to dictate that equation coming into being in the first place ?

Then you've got the bullshit - the bigger than Barcelona., shirt burning, Big brother little brother bullshit - the unnecessary braggadocio which never backfired on him, but on each and every one of us, making us look like blind followers of some mindless cult.

To use a metaphor, before Sam we were a point to point horse - turning up week in, week out, always fishing the race, occasionally coming in as an each way bet, often following most of the rest of the field - but it was always there next week with a chance of giving us a return on our money, and even occasionally making a small profit, sharing the transient glories of victory amongst us all. Then Sam turned us into a Grand National horse - at the end of the first circuit, we were up with the leaders, with a real chance of real fame and glory in a lap's time. But the stakes were a lot higher - as the horse gets more tired, a fatal fall can take place. Don't forget the last horse he'd taken through the Grand National - it competed for a long part of the race, but then fell, and had to be put down. It was never going to come back for the next race.

This time, he got lucky - for whatever reason, whether it was his choice or someone else's, they've changed the jockey half way round. But the horse is still tired - it
still carries a lot of extra weight - £30m of lead in its saddlebag. But a big bottle of lucozade is possibly on offer, to give the horse a bit of extra energy. It may go the course - and provide some transient glory. But it can still fall.

So what is Sam's legacy then ? He's put us in a race where the rewards are quantatively bigger - but the the penalties for failing are a lot harsher, and more permanent. Some people are happy for others to make this decision for them - and either don't care about the harsher penalty for failing - or can't see it till it hits them like a bullet between the eyes. Personally, I'm not happy for other people to hijack my fortunes in that way, which is why I'm glad Sam is going. Unfortunately, I'm not sure yet what the new jockey is like, and anyway, this isn't a race I really wanted to be in anyway. I think I would have preferred the Derby - when you finally fail
there, you get to spend the rest of your days shagging in a nice field, rather than being shafted, permanently, in the race that Hammam entered us into.

Which is why I'll be silent on Saturday.


And from another dissenter:

I had to try and explain to an Arsenal supporting colleague why I was so happy about Hammam fucking off yesterday. Although I offended him deeply by using a Hitler comparison, I still feel it was a fundamentally sound analogy. City from 2000 – 2006 was much better on the field than the previous 20 years. Its something like the improvements seen in the German economy after the National Socialists came to power, between 1933 and 1938. For you average German things seemed great, compared to the hyper-inflation experienced in the 20s. But there was a cost. Sections of society (the fanbase) were persecuted, and though popular support for the leader remained strong, there were those who could see that ultimately there was a terrible price to pay. The soul of the nation/club, was deeply disfigured by those who supported the success at any costs mentality and either didn’t care about, or actively supported, the evil agenda of the leader.


And finally

No one can make any kind of judgement based on the PR campaign we have had so far, only the reality of the next few years. I don't think our situation has changed very markedly, someone will still want a return on their "serious money" that has "replaced the debt" and the future well-being of the club is still staked on a property development.

Getting in to the Premiership does not in itself guarantee healthy finances even with the new TV deal starting, it depends on what you spend when you're there. Obviously I think having Hammam's unstable and possibly incompetent character out of the way is probably a positive and I am very glad he's gone due to my personal dislike of his actions, pronouncements and methods.

Most of all I won't have to suffer his horrendous cult of personality and the lie that he "wasn't doing it for money"So, in summary, I think we MIGHT be slightly better off, slightly more stable and with a very slightly less odious man at the helm. Also, I wonder if the excellent work the council have done in protecting us from Hammam's unworkable (no one disputes this now do they? His having to walk away pretty much confirms that) and dangerous plans will ever be remarked upon en masse by the fans?

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