Sleeping giant or dysfunctional club?
Port Vale fans deserve some luck and they may have got it in the shape of Alchemy Investment Group, named today as the preferred bidder to take the Burslem club out of adminstration
The latest issue of Four Four Two has a feature article on Port Vale headlined 'Britain's most dysfunctional club.' There are a few others that might deserve that title, but Vale fans have certainly been to hell in a handcart and back.
Even after reading a well-informed article, I am far from sure about what actually happened, but I'm not sure fans of the Valiants are either. The article starts by mentioning 'Rogue owners, vanishing buyers, winding up orders, public sector bailouts, a brush with a US turf sports supplier' and the list goes on.
In some ways the story of prospective investors who turn out not to have the money they said they have, or deny they promised it in the first place, is a sadly familiar one in football. To me the real mystery is why prospective saviour Keith Ryder actually paid the wages in June and funded a pre-season tour in Ireland and then suddenly pulled out without explanation. Even the administrator was surprised and they have seen it all.
But perhaps the corner has finally been turned. What the leading member of Alchemy, Paul Wildes, has to say is generally eminently sensible, although references to a 'sleeping giant' always give some concern.
What is clear is that the 35-year old multi-millionaire from The Wirral does actually have some readies and is willing to spend them in a sensible way. His business portfolio is a diversified one, ranging from Holiday Inn franchises to hairdressers. These are businesses which generate reasonable cash flow, even in a recession. His business partner is retired finance expert Norman Smurthwaite.
The takeover is costing £1.25m. Wilde will honour an existing agreement with Stoke-on-Trent city council, the club's major creditor. Without their help the club would have ceased to exist, according tio administrator Bob Young.
Wilde has made it clear that his strategy is not to pour money into a black hole, but to invest wisely, make sound commercial decisions and take a long-term view. He recognises that football clubs are often not well managed and that something needs to be done about that.
In turning the club into a viable business, he sees the ground, once billed as the Wembley of the North, as an undervalued asset and wants to develop the commercial side. His vision is to make investments in the business and the team, driving up the value of the company so as to create a virtuous cycle of success.