We all know how poorly the now infamous “Luton, Bournemouth, Rotherham” comment from the former chairman has aged. It’s an old comment from an old regime, and its proper analysis should take into account the situation of all clubs at the time it was made, as well as what has changed in the time between. Yes, he’s gone, but we’re still here, and for me at least, the words still linger.
I am particularly interested in the comparison between Walsall and Rotherham. To me, the similarities of the clubs are quite striking.
Post-industrial town with carcases of mills and factories dotted around
The nicknames directly associate with a historic trade
Sizeable working-class population
Millmoor & Fellows Park were similar in character
Surrounded by bigger clubs
Generally seen as unfashionable
Most of the post-war period spent in Tier 3, with occasional ups & downs
Were in Tier 2 during the collapse of ITV Digital, impacted the year after us
Seeing the unrestrained glee of their supporters on the final whistle of ‘that match’ was especially bitter for me, because as far as I’m concerned, they are - or were - us. But that’s neither here nor there.
The fact is that the “Luton, Bournemouth, Rotherham” comment had a streak of pertinence when it was made in 2008, because Rotherham were then in chaos, having to move to the Don Valley Stadium, entering administration, and starting on -17 points the following season. There were a spate of administrations and liquidations around this time. Chester and Darlington spring to mind and would not be seen in their original forms again.
To put it bluntly, what has happened between then and now?
How has a club, for me more historically akin to Walsall than perhaps any other league club, gone from being on the bones of its arse to sitting comfortably(ish) in the Championship with an impressive new stadium? What have we not done that they have? Is it that we’ve done things very badly, or have they just done things really well? Bit of both? Pure luck? Either way I think there’s a lesson to be learned.
They had some pain before they’ve got to where they are now, they were playing at Don Valley stadium in Sheffield for a few seasons weren’t they?
Love where they built their new ground, much better access than Millmoor. They know their level but basically they are now what this club was 20 years ago so either going for promotion in league 1 or having a relegation battle in championship and getting some big scalps each season.
Someone with a better knowledge of football finances may be able to give you an answer to that, but even that being the case, it didn’t stop them finding a £20m investment for their new ground.
Maybe looking at history is my mistake, as investors care above all else about the future. It’s just that I find Rotherham a very convenient benchmark; it’s no good comparing ourselves to some other clubs because the scales at work are too different. In 2008 you would probably say we were in a better position to have that future.
It does seem to be the most appropriate comparison. The list of clubs we should be looking to emulate is growing season on season though as we get left behind. It pains me to say it but Shrewsbury and Port Vale are also now firmly in this list.
If Trivela want a case study to help guide their decision-making, they can do a lot worse than look into the recent history of Rotherham, with a focus on the period from their administration to where they are now. The way I see it, as we haven’t entered administration or had to relocate, we’re actually in a better ‘rock bottom’ position than they were.
I don’t know if this is the kind of thing the remnants of the old guard would think or be inclined to do when asked for advice from Uncle Sam.
The answer is within the fact that despite what the uninformed national media always said, we were in fact not a well run club. The number one focus was not on what was best for the club. If it had been then in my opinion the freehold would never had been sold. Any success we enjoyed was in spite of the board, not because of it. That one act has held us back for years. Many clubs rent their grounds - but many of those never owned it.
To do what Bournemouth, Rotherham and Luton have done you must have a competent Board of Directors who put the club first. In any organisation it comes from the top. Only time will tell if our new owners are not only competent but able to surround themselves with the right people who really understand the business they are in.
Wrong people at the top since the day we left Fellows Park, limped along accepting failure as the norm, we are only little old Worsul, owt will do as long as the gullible fans keep spending their hard earned on rubbish. “We are a well run club”
Take it a step further - you need people at the top who are leaders, not managers. It’s one thing to tick a box and say you’ve done your job, but quite another to say what the box should be and persuade people that it’s a great box to tick instead of the one they’re used to ticking.