Venkys haven't made the most auspicious of starts to their football ownership careers. But they've a long way to go if they want to match the madness of King George. Welcome to IBWM, Matt Furniss.
You have to be mad to want to own a football club. Not only does it not make any financial sense for the person/people involved, it can bring only anger and resentment from football fans if you make one wrong decision, regardless of how many great decisions that you may(or may not) have made in the past.
Anuradha Desai hasn’t made the most convincing start as owner of Blackburn Rovers; sacking Sam Allardyce as manager and then seeming indecisive about who to appoint in his place didn’t really lead to widespread admiration in English football. To make matters worse, her embarrassing, and almost certainly unsuccessful attempt, to tempt Ronaldinho to the club will only unsettle the club further in a season which it seems any three of 10-12 clubs could find themselves dragged in to a serious relegation battle come the end of the season. For a man who is known to like a ‘party lifestyle’; Liquid/Envy in the town centre on a Wednesday night isn’t really going to cut the mustard is it.
So just how mad are the chicken crew? To put it bluntly - they haven’t got shit on George Reynolds.
Even if you only scratch the surface, George Reynolds was an absolute nutter.
He took over at Darlington in 1999 and classically managed to lure the clubs’ fans in to loving him until he showed his true colours before leaving in 2004. I mean how couldn’t you love a guy who promised you Tino Asprilla and paraded him around a brand new stadium before thousands of adoring fans….oh yeah….the loco Columbian then proceeded to do a runner. The offer of 20% of gate receipts and a 17k a weekly wage obviously didn’t cut it in the end, and so he flew to the Middle East for some more dosh.
Reynolds fancied himself as a bit of a tough nut. He publicly warned fans that he would go to their homes if they criticised him or his family and told his detractors that they could expect confrontation at home or at the ground. This came from a man whose motto was known to be "I never listen to the fans or manager because they never get it right.”
He wasn’t too popular with the players either. In an amazing outburst, his wife; Susan Reynolds, suggested that the Quakers’ players weren’t trying hard in games and then aimed a tirade of abuse at then-manager David Hodgson and even the supporters at a 2002 fans forum; which ended with all of the players attending the event walking out in disgust to cheers from the supporters.
Rewinding a little - the stadium that was previously mentioned in hosting Darlington’s welcome party for Asprilla was none other than the ‘Reynolds Arena’. This badboy was built for a cost of £20million in 2003; which all seems fairly cheap for a newly built 27,000 capacity stadium complete with marble toilets and gold taps. It was all rather lavish for what was only a Division Three outfit, and Reynolds’ attention to detail looked to have gone unnoticed when the stadium was less than 45% full for its opening game against Kidderminster Harriers (11,600). An angry Reynolds was unnerved, roaring that "people chuck red herrings and say it's too big, but it wasn't too big.”
Unfortunately for the Quakers, George was wrong again. The stadium was built with the expectation that it would be filled, therefore paying for itself, but this proved to be very unrealistic. As it stands, poor old Darlington don’t even know what to name the stadium, let alone how to fill it. It’s currently known as the ‘Darlington Arena’ (original); the seventh different name for the white elephant.
Only months after the stadium was completed, George Reynolds left the club. He promised the fans that he would take them out of the Football League’s basement division and in to the Premier League, but unfortunately for Darlington this never happened, and they didn’t exit that league until 2010 when they went in the wrong direction; the Blue Square Premier.
Reynolds, who spent three years in jail and is now in the vending machine trade, recently told the local press that he'll resist any calls to come back. "I'm booming, I'm making mega bucks – I don't need it. But there are a lot of fans who'd welcome me." Evidently, he’s still as deluded as ever.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_Furniss.