I commenced the conversation by explaining to him how it had caused a volcanic explosion of anger amongst fans and I had watched it personally over and over to the point of writing 3 pages of detailed notes into the early hours of Wednesday morning. I stressed how whatever his reason for doing it and the issues he discussed the main issue we had with it was his comments about the fans and the..
"Are these people really supporters of football clubs ?"
"Are there other things that we are not aware of ?"
"Are there groups of people that say they are supporters but really don't want Venkys to succeed for whatever reason and don't want the manager to succeed ?"
...statements made that deeply angered me and all BRFC supporters. JA assured me that in no way did he mean for it to be interpreted in a direct criticism of true supporters and he was alluding to groups of people in or around the club that had an agenda. He repeatedly offered his apologies and gave his 100% assurances that he does not feel its the general fans he was referring to. I also stressed that I was unsure if he was criticising me after I made a number of public appeals and criticisms of the owners and management team. Again he apologised and repeatedly said it was not aimed at me or the protesting supporters. I also explained that the "Darker forces at work" statement could be taken as a reference from him that the motivation was racist based, again he 100% confirmed that was not his intention and he again profusely apologised.
I expressed that the main reason for the majority of our concerns was regarding the overall running of the club from
1) inexperienced, silent and unengaged owners
2) inexperienced board of directors
3) inexperienced first team manager
I asked why now ? The direct protests to SK had calmed considerably and this was just reigniting an explosive situation. He explained his reasons were to try and quell some extremely abusive threats he was receiving from a number of sources that were directly against his daughter and wife and were deeply offensive. He also wanted to give his side of the story.
He was obviously angry and disappointed about the letter that was published yesterday, that was sent by the previous directors to the owners on 4th Jan 2011 expressing their deep concerns as to their own roles within the club and the role of SEM in transfers and mandates. I explained that the fans protests and my own advertised issues had been justified with the publication of this letter. Whether the letter's publication is a result of his interview or the interview a result of the impending publication of the letter we will never know.
We will never agree regarding the appointment of his client and friend SK. I expressed our disappointment at how an inexperienced manager was given the prestigious job as a premiership manager and then quickly fell into a position of directly answerable only to the owners. His defence was that this is a common situation at many clubs. Yes I agreed, but not at clubs where the owners had no experience and where the manager had no experience. It made no sense whatsoever to ignore the advice of an experience board of directors. To this he agreed.
He will always offer support to his client SK and I would have expected nothing else. He did say though that he has worked with a reduction in number of players and along with an horrendous injuries list and not had the investment support that was promised on a number of occasions. Targets that they had identified were not finalised as the owners and the bank couldn't agree funding.
I questioned his points made regarding the transfer window in January 2011 that he referred to and his comment that he did not get paid for this. He confirmed that he did receive payment in response to the J Jones and M Formica deals but says he also worked hard to convince a number of players to remain with the club and to renegotiate deals that he says he did not receive any payments for. Including P Jones that eventually led to a much improved sale deal for BRFC than would have been if sold in Jan 2011.
I asked him why, an agent who had been requested personally by the clubs owners for help, who was the agent of the manager and who had helped fix the sale of the club had not had any dealings with the club for the last year ? Had his relationship broken down ? Rumours were that they had been disillusioned after fees had been overcharged. He denied this and said he was unsure why and alluded to the possibility of the owners been given some poor advice.
We talked about how SK is currently the face to the media with no direct support in this from either the current directors or the owners. I reminded him of some of the poor statements made, such as SK's statement that BRFC had no chance of relegation on the day of the Wigan game, the Champions League football in 4 years and other managers apparently saying he was doing a marvellous job. It is clear I stressed to him that SK needs support in media interaction.
I informed him that the current Directors promised the protest organisers a meeting at the town hall if they suspended their protests. To this date this meeting has never took place and the promises they were given has been broken. This is a particularly poor piece of PR from the club especially considering the position they are in and their ability to stop the protests by some easy afforded courtesy. I advised him to discuss this with SK and to have a small meeting with a handful of supporters could have a long lasting benefit.
It is clear to me that whatever role JA played in the various parts of this mixed jigsaw the owners ultimately make their own decisions and it is only them who can discuss, invest, replace, communicate, buy or sell. They are the only decision makers. All the silent parties in this mess, owners, Walker Trustees, Walker family, past directors, current directors, players, manager and agents all have gained financially from a slice of the pie. The only party who hasn't are the fans and sponsors, and these are the ones who have received the most criticism. Even through this torrid season so far we are now, unbelievably, currently out of the bottom 3. This will be a long and difficult run to the end of the season but we can still remain in the premier league if the squad is invested in and we get our injured players fit. Whatever our thoughts on the experience of and issues with the manager the owners have decided to back him. This is not going to change and so we must support and back the club and the players.
The above is an honest and accurate account of todays conversation.