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The Decline & Fall Of Leyton Orient
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Tranmere Rovers & Cheltenham Town Stare Into The Abyss
Yesterday in Plymouth, shortly before noon, the BBC ‘understood’ that, Peter Ridsdale “is to step down from involvement with Plymouth Argyle.” I smiled. The statement seemed to explain an odd occurrence earlier that morning. A Plymouth article on the BBC website at half-past-nine referenced a Ridsdale interview for today’s BBC ‘Football Focus’ programme in which he said the takeover would be complete by October 10th. By ten o’clock, the reference to Ridsdale had been excised. And the BBC’s noonday ‘understanding’ appeared to explain why. Five hours later, Peter Ridsdale told us what that really meant. I stopped smiling. I should have known better. Even the words “step down from involvement” should have rung alarm bells in my head. If Ridsdale was to leave Argyle, the BBC would have understood that he “is to leave Plymouth Argyle”?
His short-ish statement on Argyle’s official website made no mention whatsoever of stepping down from “involvement.” The closest was “I can confirm that my role as ‘Acting Chairman of Plymouth Argyle Football Club’ on behalf of the Administrator will finish on the completion of James Brent’s takeover.” Well, yes. That is a remarkable statement in that it has Ridsdale’s name attached to it and it is…true; but only because every role at “Plymouth Argyle Football Club on behalf of the Administrator” will “finish on the completion of James Brent’s takeover.” Even if the execrable Kevin Heaney’s takeover had been completed, the above statement would be true, as Ridsdale would be doing nothing on behalf of the administrator and nothing at all until Heaney sold the club to his ‘Plymouth (125) Limited’ company and he became whatever he wanted to call himself (no suggestions please).
So far, so disingenuous. And Ridsdale has, of course, said all this before. On February 1st, Ridsdale told the BBC: “I came to try and assist Argyle, having been given clear assurances of investment from the Far East.” It is ‘too soon’ for Argyle fans to relive that nightmare. Suffice to say Ridsdale promised that if the money didn’t come, he would go. He “could not stay if that money had not arrived…I’ve informed the board in writing that under these circumstances, there is no point in me staying.” The money didn’t arrive. Ridsdale didn’t go. “I was advising the board,” he said on February 8th, “and I made it clear that would cease today.” However, he added that he would “continue trying to find a buyer or investors but I will do so at a distance.” And whatever that distance was, it never stretched further than a microphone, as Ridsdale and then vice-chairman Paul Stapleton became the club’s only public voices. Ridsdale was even attending “crisis” boardroom meetings by February 19th, and managing to say something about them when he had reportedly “refused to comment.”
By March 2nd, according to a Plymouth Herald newspaper headline, Ridsdale had “severed his ties with Plymouth Argyle’s directors.” Again. Ridsdale appeared to reveal the same situation as February 8th when he said: “I’ll try to find a buyer for the club but the directors can start taking responsibility.” And it was the same situation. A buyer didn’t arrive. Ridsdale didn’t go. With such a record, Ridsdale’s admission that “I have agreed to make myself available to assist James for a limited period of time on a consultancy basis” confirms he isn’t going anywhere. He also told the chairman of the impressive Argyle Fans’ Trust, Chris Webb, that this “period of time” would be three months.
By then, Ridsdale will be part of the furniture again, especially as “James (Brent) was originally my preferred bidder and nothing that has happened over the last six months has changed my mind.” Not even Ridsdale’s fundamental role in Heaney’s bid, it seems; or, as Ridsdale called it in a Herald interview on June 29th, “the only game in town.” There was a hint of departure about one paragraph. “I have consistently said that my role was to find the right long-term solution for Argyle. And on completion of the takeover by James Brent, I see that as ‘job done.’ So, farewell, then? After all, he did stress that “the job I have come here to do is done.”
Unfortunately, he stressed this on May 7th. And within four days he was after “the approval of administrators to sell season tickets,” something in which he has plenty of experience, as Cardiff Magistrates Court will discover on September 27th, when they are told a little about how he sold season tickets while he was chairman of that city’s football club. It has been a good week for Argyle fans -heavens, Brent is even going to the match today. But it’s not all been good news; because whatever Peter Ridsdale DID say in his leaving statement, yesterday in Plymouth, it wasn’t “I’m leaving.”
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