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Premier League

Chelsea's Kenyon was 'seen and heard too often'

When Peter Kenyon was asked to predict the Premier League champions at the start of the 2005-2006 season he paused for a moment to affect his smuggest smile before saying the winners would come "from a small group of one".

It was not the first silly phrase to emanate from Kenyon's lips, nor the last.

But it did seem to sum up neatly the lack of humility and style which accompanied Chelsea's rise to success.

It is why the news of his departure from the chief executive's chair at Stamford Bridge was not greeted with universal dismay.

Kenyon loves the sight of a microphone. Loves the sound of his own voice. And this past decade, at first Manchester United and then Chelsea, appeared to revel in his fame by association with those who actually deserved their celebrity.

But it was not what Kenyon said, more what he stood for which is why he will go down as one of the most unloved football characters of the Noughties.

Kenyon stood for 'Branding' and 'Monetising' and 'Franchising' and a list of other unspeakable corporate phrases which have turned football into just another plaything of the bankers.

Sure, Kenyon understood how to buy and sell. He was in his element when clinching shirt deals such as that with Vodafone for Manchester United and Samsung for Chelsea.

But he never understood football. Not really. Not where the fans were concerned.

Worst of all he peddled the belief that the Chelsea way was good for football, as he intimated when he pronounced on the lack of competition in the Premier League.

"Other teams in England should be knocking on our door, teams like Tottenham, Newcastle, Villa, Everton," he said. "It's more about them getting their houses in order rather than us coming down to their level."

In that phrase the good ship football truly was sailing down a river of delusion with Cap'n Kenyon at the helm.

Basically what Kenyon was saying was that to succeed all Premier League clubs should find an oil-rich billionaire such as Roman Abramovich, rack up debts of £500m give or take, pay astronomical wages and rip up the balance book.

Depressingly, if Manchester City's subsequent spending spree works, Kenyon might be right. But some of us still prefer to believe football would be better if taken in a more wholesome fashion.

Such as living within your means, not being in hock to the banks or foreign investors and not being obsessed with taking over the world.

With fewer people like Kenyon in football real supporters might once in a while be able to rely on a 3pm kick-off on Saturday afternoon rather than having to traipse around the country at odd hours of the weekend so that those in Far East armchairs can take in the Premier League at their convenience.

The little guys might still have a voice. The Crewes, the Southends, the Orients, who give much to enhance the fabric of English football but receive such scant coverage.

No, Kenyon will not be remembered as a footballing man.

When his name crops up we will recall the fact that as chief executive of Manchester United he spoke to the contracted England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson about replacing Ferguson at Old Trafford and later while at Chelsea tried to line up England's head coach to replace Claudio Ranieri.

We will recall the illicit rendezvous with Arsenal's Ashley Cole and the indiscreet meeting with Rio Ferdinand.

And, of course, how could we forget the night in Moscow he bowed his shiny pate to receive a Champions League losers' medal after leading the Chelsea team up the steps?

At which point we all wondered why schoolboys had never collected cards bearing the face of a chief executive.

The fact is chief executives at football clubs rarely should be heard and hardly ever seen. Kenyon never quite bought into that. It was his biggest mistake.