Sven Goran Eriksson had warned him against the idea but Dietmar Hamann yesterday began his managerial career with a squad of nine players at Stockport County, whose predecessor has just been sacked a month after being handed the position permanently.
County, newly-relegated to the Blue Square Conference, do not know yet if the consortium of investors whose figurehead is a 27-year-old Liverpool businessman, Tony Evans, will actually convert their talk to hard investment. Evans, who said he has known Hamann for three months, said a "six-figure sum" would be invested if the consortium's due diligence process was successfully concluded before an 7 August deadline.
Hamann, 37, said that Eriksson, with whom he had been working as first-team coach at Leicester City, "thought I should have started higher up." But the former Liverpool and Manchester City midfielder concluded that "if you don't fancy a challenge in football, you won't get where you want to be."
His first task yesterday, having accepted a proposition put to him last week by lifelong Liverpool fan Evans, was to call his unfortunate predecessor, Ray Mathias, who had embarked on a summer clearout of players following relegation from the league, to ask him if he wanted to continue at the club in some capacity.
Mathias, the former Tranmere Rovers manager, did not offer an immediate answer. Hamann said he will mine his contacts from the Premier League down to seek loan players to add to the club's paltry group on nine pros, augmented by "18 or 19 YTS lads" whom he admitted were not ready for the Blue Square Conference. Evans, who has already hired Bell Pottinger to handle the consortium's PR, said money would be available to help get County back in the League.
"You can't take it with you," he declared, though the identity of his co-investors and the source and size of their proposed investment remains unclear. Evans describes himself as a management, sales and marketing consultant to the Essex-based solicitors GT Law.
A group of companies Evans set up under the name Anthony Donald Evans – including a price comparison website seeus2save.com, Accident Assistance and Clear Bike Insurance – went into administration in December.
Evans dismissed suggestions, which have flooded County message boards, that he is a frontman for his friend Stephen Vaughan, the Liverpool businessman and the former Chester City owner who became the first owner to fail the Football League's fit and proper person test in November 2009, following his involvement in a £500,000 VAT fraud. Vaughan was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment in March, not for VAT fraud, but for an attack on a police officer. "I know Stephen well. He is a good guy," Evans said. "Everyone needs a scapegoat to blame in football. He was that scapegoat at Chester rightly or wrongly. He invested millions in that football club. He's got my number. If he wants to ring me and get involved I would definitely listen to him but at this moment in time he is not involved in this consortium."
Of the failure of his previous businesses, Evans said: "You tell me someone who has been successful who has not had a company go into administration. If the fans have issues with that, then actions speak louder than words."
The search for financial salvation has been a desperate one at Stockport, which is saddled with a groundshare deal struck between previous owners and Sale Sharks, by which the football club only take the gate receipts from home matches, with all corporate revenues heading to the rugby union club.
United States-based businessman Mike Newton called off a takeover attempt in March but maintained a close interest. His close friend Graham Shaw, the former Stoke City striker, was appointed chief executive, a post he still holds. Then, a consortium including The Sun's Stockport-supporting editor Mike Dunn and darts player Tony "Silverback" O'Shea was interested, prompting speculation that Glenn Hoddle was about to be appointed manager. Evans insisted he had passed the Conference's fit and proper person test.