Shambles at Chester

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The Independent Football

To say that Chester City are in a state of shambles is an understatement. It is a minor miracle that they managed to start the Nationwide Conference season last weekend.

Early results have been poor: Chester lost at home to Woking last Saturday and at Southport on Tuesday, conceding goals in the first minute of both matches. The gate at the Deva stadium last weekend was just 745, compared to the crowd of 2,616 for the former Football League side's home debut in the Conference at the start of last season.

The fans are staying away in protest at the club's chairman and owner, the confrontational US businessman and one-time American football coach Terry Smith. Supporters have accused him of gross mismanagement on the pitch – he has dabbled in coaching the team despite having no prior football experience – and off it. Smith's riposte to all his critics has been that it is only his money which has kept the club afloat throughout the last two traumatic years. Now, though, it seems he has had enough and wants to sell Chester.

Rumours of an imminent takeover are yet to become reality, however. It is likely that any potential purchasers are worried about the threat of investigations by both the Football Association and the Inland Revenue into alleged financial irregularities. Chester are also facing a winding-up order instigated by a former manager, Kevin Ratcliffe, in an attempt to secure money he claims he is owed by the club.

Last season Graham Barrow did a decent job as manager in difficult circumstances, but he was sacked in June. Ambitious attempts to secure the services of Joe Royle and then John Barnes predictably ended in failure, so the club's director of football Gordon Hill is in charge of team affairs this term.

The former Manchester United and England winger, who coached Chester's youth side without much success last season, said: "I know there's turmoil off the field, but my job is to make sure things are right on the field and that everyone is going down the same road." It could be a rocky road.

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