Palios may return to front line

The home page for PricewaterhouseCoopers' Business Recovery Services carries a graph for prospective clients asking: "Are you on the corporate decline curve?" The danger end features such signs as "cash crisis" and "loss of key management".

The home page for PricewaterhouseCoopers' Business Recovery Services carries a graph for prospective clients asking: "Are you on the corporate decline curve?" The danger end features such signs as "cash crisis" and "loss of key management".

The Football Association, busy slashing a fifth of its staff in an attempt to reduce debt, would seem to be classic clients. It is why Mark Palios, the head of PwC's BRS, was last night considering an offer to become their new chief executive.

Palios' qualifications do not end with his extensive experience rescuing stricken companies, including several football clubs, a leading arts organisation and various industrial concerns. None of the other seven candidates considered by the FA had 13 years' experience at the game's coalface on their CV.

Palios may now be a corporate trouble-shooter but in an earlier incarnation he was a familiar presence in the lower divisions. A stocky midfielder who was occasionally pressed into service as a striker, he made 249 League appearances for Tranmere either side of a 118-match spell with Crewe. While a respected player, he saw more grind than glamour, never finishing above 10th in the old Third Division. Relegated twice, he was knocked out of the FA Cup by non-League opposition three times and, since finances were as tight then as now, given three free transfers.

There were some highlights. A promotion with Tranmere, a shock League Cup win at Highbury with Crewe and, most notable of all, a European Cup-winners' Cup run with Bangor City which included a 1-0 away defeat to Atletico Madrid in which Palios struck the bar. He played with former international goalkeepers Bruce Grobbelaar, Gordon West and Tommy Lawrence, a pair of Stoke City heroes in Terry Conroy and Jimmy Greenhoff, and was in the Tranmere squad with a young Roy Stubbs.

The first manager to sign him, in 1972, was Ron Yeats, the Liverpool legend. The last to release him, in 1985, Frank Worthington, once of Leicester City and Stringfellows. In between he had a taste of the game's instability with three managers in as many years at Crewe before leaving just before Dario Gradi took over as manager.

While Gradi is still at Gresty Road, Palios's life has been utterly transformed. After playing with Bangor in the Multipart (now UniBond) League he concentrated on a burgeoning accountancy career embarked upon during his playing days. Armed with a psychology degree from Manchester University he moved through the profession, joining PwC in 1989 as a partner. He has since risen to head up its business regeneration department, where he is thought to have helped Leicester City, Nottingham Forest, Derby County and others deal with financial crises.

This combination of fiscal expertise and football experience makes him appear such an overwhelming candidate to replace Adam Crozier that one can only wonder why the FA chose to offer the post to Peter Littlewood. The Mars executive was suggested by David Dein, the vice-chairman of both the FA and Arsenal, and then adopted by Geoff Thompson, the chairman.

With the latter facing re-election in a year, and possessing few firm opinions on anything, his change of heart might have had more to do with protecting his own position than any belief in Littlewood.

If so it backfired, when Littlewood rejected the offer. Thus yesterday's offer to Palios. Birkenhead-born with a slight trace of a Scouse accent, he is described as "hands-on". If that reminds the chairmen of Crozier, they will find consolation in Palios's recent conclusions to research conducted by his team. He said: "The one reason, above all, why companies fail was having a too-dominant chief executive". That, to the Premiership chairmen, was Crozier's desire. They will surely warm to a man who warns against it.

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