Football: Fan's Eye View No 225 - Plymouth Argyle

`A battle, not for control of a business, but for the heart of my club'

Plymouth Argyle. A unique name. A unique club with an unfortunately uninspiring list of achievements. But it has been, for 32 years, part of my soul and being, as it was my father's and is my son's.

To me and many in Plymouth, Home Park has been the focus of a substantial part of our lives. The sad decline in the local economy is now reflected in the fortunes of the club and the structure of the ground. A place big enough for Manchester United to play when their own ground was closed and where Jimmy Greaves played his first game for Spurs now attracts fewer than 5,000 to watch our journeymen in green battling for survival in an atmosphere of bitter resentment.

The current chairman is Dan McCauley, millionaire, owner of an engineering company, once the white knight riding in to control a mediocre club with potential. He arrived in 1992, as we were nudging the top division. Since then, we have dropped two divisions, won a Wembley play-off to return from the basement to the current Second Division, had at least six managers and caretakers and spent (by his estimation) about pounds 3m. Now he has put the club up for sale, and he wants his money back.

This is a man who, rather than attend the recent home game with Watford, went instead to Torquay v Exeter, having recently admitted he holds shares in one of those clubs and had been approached for help by the other. A man who has blamed every fan who does not turn up at the turnstile for financial difficulties which emanate from his own questionable business decisions, such as the recruitment of Peter Shilton as player-manager at a salary reputedly higher than any manager outside the top division.

Shilton's two years in charge resulted in flowing football - and relegation. Staff and directors came and went until we seemed to function as a one- man show in the style of Boris Yeltsin, whom McCauley resembles physically.

Now, not having received the adulation which he thinks he deserves, he has turned on the fans, accusing them of giving up on the club which he will support financially only until the end of the season. Each low attendance results in the disposal of staff. Last week office and ground staff, then a crop of promising players.

One local newspaper, banned from the ground because of negative comments about him, has exhorted all fans to attend today's home match with Walsall to counter McCauley's claims. Ironically, potentially the largest crowd of the season, with its associated boost in income, may not all be granted entry as, because minor improvements required to the public address system have not been made, the ground capacity has been reduced. Many wishing to express their support may have to do so from outside.

Unfortunately, McCauley will not be there to see them, having declared he will not set foot inside the ground again.

One man to take up the challenge to replace him at the helm is a former Argyle favourite, Tommy Tynan, now pulling pints a pasty's throw from the ground. He is fronting an attempt to take over, with a degree of power to be given back to the fans.

It is a battle which must be won. A battle, not for control of a business, but for the heart of my club, part of my very existence. Take out the heart and there is nothing left. I don't know if I can live with that. I hope that Mr McCauley can live with himself.

Barrie Davis is co-editor of PASOTI, the Plymouth Argyle supporters' Internet site: www.argyle.org.uk

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