Ebbsfleet's new owners: 'It's unique - it's going into the unknown a little bit'

Ebbsfleet's manager Liam Daish now has 20,000 sets of eyes, including his wife's, watching his every move. Mike Rowbottom enters a brave new world
Click to follow
The Independent Football

A day in the life of a football manager. Your team, Ebbsfleet United, have just earned a goalless draw at Oxford United which keeps them in range of the play-off places in the Blue Square Premier League, one step away from the League proper. So it's business as usual – but only up to a point. Because there are loads of press and cameras about, and everyone wants to know how you are going to deal with the sporting revolution which has been set in motion at your club, whereby 20,000 members of a website named MyFootballClub have paid £35 each to raise capital and gain the right to vote online to determine team selection, tactics, business decisions and, yes, even managerial changes.

You, Liam Daish, a tough centre-half whose playing career saw you earn five Ireland caps and a wealth of appearances for Portsmouth, Cambridge United, Birmingham City and Coventry City – where Ron Atkinson paid £1.5m for you – are the man who finds himself playing a role that will be confirmed in the new year once the current business proposition has gone through due diligence.

Your title will then change from manager to head coach, although you could have a share of £700,000 to spend on new players. And now the press are asking you about it...

"You should have funds coming through in January – have you got areas in your squad where you think you're going to need to spend?"

"Yes. Definitely."

"Are you prepared to share them with us?"

"No. I'll share them with my members."

"One of which I am..."

As the laughter reverberates around the press room you decide to share a domestic moment from earlier in the day.

"Tell you what," you say, "this morning as I'm getting ready to turn up, my missus starts talking about formations. It's the first time she's talked about football. Ever. And it turns out she's paid her £35. She thinks that I'm answerable to her now."

Pause for more laughter.

"So I'd like to know where she gets this spare £35 from..."

Even louder laughter...

Patently, the shape of Liam Daish's world has changed in the space of the last week as what has been described as the most innovative move in English football has come to pass.

According to MyFootballClub, he now finds himself in "an enviable and unique situation".

"It's definitely unique," he responds. "It's going into the unknown a little bit and I'm sure there's going to be a few little teething problems and scenarios. But it's going to be a great experience and I'm looking forward to it."

As they wait to warm-down from a match in which 196 of their fans have formed part of a 4,655 crowd – nine less than turned up for the equivalent fixture last year – Ebbsfleet players discuss the new arrangements. "But what's it going to mean?" asks one. Good question.

"I've told the players it's a good time to be playing well for Ebbsfleet United," Daish says. "There's the possibility now of better contracts, better facilities, better kit, better everything."

But the bottom line is that the head coach faces having his decisions questioned or revoked by a collection of people from around the world. For instance, 600 of the new stakeholders live in Australia. How does Daish think John Beck, his old boss at Cambridge in the Route One days, would have dealt with it?

"Do you know what?" Daish says. "John Beck was always looking for an out or an advantage, whether it was a team or a referee. So he would probably embrace it because he'd see the positives. Now ask me if Ron Atkinson would do it, and that's a different kettle of fish..."

A day in the life of a new Ebsfleet fan. Dan Wymer, one of the MyFC arrivals, has not yet been able to order a club scarf, but here he is, a few seats down from the hardcore supporters with their shirts and drum, ready to oversee his latest investment. "I'm a Newcastle fan," he says. "But they haven't exactly offered the same deal yet. I've done a bit of research and I wanted to come and see what the team looked like. I'm hoping to get to see them two or three times this season, maybe more. I know some of the traditional fans are worried about the new move but, hopefully, they will see it can be a really good thing for the club." He departs well satisfied. "They did really well," he says. "It's definitely a good base to build on."

A day in the life of an old Ebbsfleet fan. "Hursty", born and bred in Gravesend and a supporter of the team that used to be Gravesend & Northfleet, retains a sense of doubt about the brave new world. "I'm here with eight mates, and we can't even agree amongst ourselves about who should play, so how are 20,000 people going to do it?" he says. "It's all bollocks."

Comments