Football chairman's wife puts boot into 'money-grabbing team'

Matthew Beard
Saturday 02 March 2002 01:00 GMT

Not even the imaginative scriptwriters of Footballers' Wives would have dared to guess what was to follow when the flamboyant spouse of Darlington's millionaire chairman stood up to address the football club's supporters and staff.

After a series of poor results for the third division side, Susan Reynolds, the second wife of reformed safe-cracker George, had decided it was time to tell a few home truths in front of the first team and several hundreds fans.

Reading from a prepared script, Mrs Reynolds, who is 24 years younger than her husband, kicked off a tirade by branding supporters and the local media a let-down and accusing one director of being a "backstabber". More than half an hour into the rant, in which Mrs Reynolds' remarks were as spiky as her Prada heels, she unleashed the verbal equivalent of a studs-up tackle, accusing the players of throwing games as they languished in mid-table.

Having already accused the team of being money grabbers, she treated the stunned audience to her pet theory behind last Saturday's 3-1 defeat at home by lowly Torquay United. She said: "It isn't unknown for games to be thrown deliberately at this time of year, by way of favours."

It was, at the end of the day, a snub too far. The fans jeered in disgust and the players, who had been ordered by the chairman to attend the "Fans' Forum" stormed out, led by Craig Liddle, the captain.

Mr Reynolds, whose chipboard empire has helped to bankroll the club since he bought it in 1999, was in no mood to placate the fans or his team. After his wife's outburst, the chairman, 66, who is one of Britain's wealthiest men, threatened to abandon the club and turn its modern stadium into a bullring.

He added later: "Susan spoke the truth – and if she hadn't, I would be looking for a new wife. She meant the players were not trying 100 per cent and that is how they were throwing matches, from not trying hard enough.

"I have got top players here earning £120,000 a year, and top surgeons don't get that. But the fans are watching players who just aren't trying. If these players don't like what I or my wife has said, they can f*** off."

The events on Thursday night were the latest colourful chapter in the soap opera that Darlington has become since Mr Reynolds' takeover. He triggered a walkout two years ago when he attacked the greed of players and published the wage bill. Then, mocking his own criminal past, he turned up to this season's photocall wearing a ball and chain.

Darlington's hapless players were not the only ones clearing up yesterday after the impulses of a volatile leadership. Milan Mandaric, chairman of first division Portsmouth, invoked the ire of the Professional Footballers' Association when he refused to pay his players after the team plummeted to seventh from bottom in their table. Mr Mandaric, who has ploughed more than £20m into the club in less than three years, took the decision to stop the £700,000 wage bill on Thursday, saying his men were merely "going through the motions". After being accused by the PFA chairman, Gordon Taylor, of "going back to the Dark Ages" he relented last night and agreed to pay up.

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