The Long Dark Night Of Dodgy Dave King

Dave-King-XXX-high-resThis has been a long few days of late nights and all-day back and forth on social media. The EU referendum produced a shock result, but it was nothing on the chaos and the mayhem that’s followed since it was announced in the early hours of Friday.

A Prime Minister has gone. Labour’s leader hangs on by a thread; at the time of writing this over a dozen members of his shadow cabinet had resigned in an attempt to provoke a coup. EU leaders are terrified of their own people demanding similar plebiscites. Scottish independence seems like it’s a matter of time away. The pound has plummeted in value. A recession looms. Indeed, our economy has been degraded by a number of ratings agencies.

Not even half a week has elapsed, and the stage is piled with corpses.

In the midst of it all stand the men who organised this “victory” – for such is the way they refer to it. Yet amidst their finest moment few can muster a smile. Only Nigel Farage – who conceded, unconceded, reconceded and then unconceded again – seems pleased with it.

One could be forgiven for forming the distinct impression that this is neither what these people expected nor even wanted; when Johnson and Gove – arguably the greatest “winners” in all this – appeared before the media on the day after the vote they were not just subdued, they looked positively shell-shocked.

They and their cronies are already back-tracking on everything.

Except for the consequences.

They, and the rest of us, are stuck with those.

In the immediate aftermath, David Cameron resigned. In doing so, he threw the enormous economic, social and constitutional mess into their laps and they did not look like men who welcomed that responsibility.

They are not the first men to secure a triumph and then find the cost of it was too great to bear; I have, on occasion, mentioned Pyrrhus of Epirus on this site. He won a great success against the Romans but realised that it had cost him the better part of his army, and history is full of examples like it. The phenomenon even has a name; it’s called a Pyric victory, after the Greek general himself, and I thought of it watching Gove and Johnson on Friday.

I also thought of Dave King and Sevco.

In the aftermath of the Celtic v Sevco cup semi-final, I wrote an article on this site called The Storm Before The Calm. In it, I suggested that what our club had needed most was a day of reckoning, because it would inevitably lead to better times. I suggested that for the more cerebral Sevconites it was a battle they didn’t really want to win, because they knew what the consequences of it would be; confronted with that day of reckoning, Celtic would move forward and rediscover our purpose. In the weeks that followed we did exactly that.

In the aftermath of the Rodgers appointment and their defeat in the cup final I wrote an article for the CelticBlog where I asked who really won that semi-final. A lot of Sevco fans told me they did, but those who realised I was asking a deeper question decided to abuse me instead. That reaction was sparked by their very rational fears and the realisation that it was a legitimate enquiry. Their penalty kicks victory gave them one day in the sun, but that’s all they got. Celtic was reinvigorated and transformed. They stumble on in worse shape than before.

The Good Ship Sevco continues to drift towards the rocks of financial crisis. At the helm is a man who, like Johnson and Gove, has been cornered by his own lies, and now faces the prospect of making good on promises he had no business making and no idea how to keep. He will now have to live with the consequences of the reality which has caught up to him and exposed him as a fraud. Dave King should have stayed on the side-lines. Instead he secured a victory in a war he should never have fought and now wishes he’d never won.

Making big promises is easy to do. I was in politics long enough to know that. I saw many people who couldn’t help themselves, knowing it would get them a bump in popularity. Many had the luxury of knowing they could do so with impunity because they would never be near a position where they might have to keep them. Others seemed, to me, to be reckless almost beyond belief. Their pledges might well have to be kept, and some of these people had not the first clue how to take word and make it form. They were gambling that either they’d not win or that the people who cast the votes would quickly forget all that was sworn to them.

It was Rod Stewart’s narrator who lamented “I was only joking my dear” in the famous song, but at least he had the decency to admit what he’d done and besides, he had the wine to blame it on. When you make a promise you can’t keep it’s bad enough. To make those you had no intention of even trying to keep is far, far worse.

From the minute Dave King took over at Sevco this site and others were telling the fans not to believe a word that came out of his mouth. People always focus on the judge who called him a “glib and shameless liar” but I’ve long believed it’s other parts of that withering verdict which should have been focussing fans minds instead;

“As his evidence progressed it became clear that he has no respect for the truth and does not hesitate to lie, or at least misrepresent the facts, if he thinks it will be to his advantage … There can be little doubt that on most occasions Mr King lied, as he knew the correct facts and obviously decided to misrepresent these facts … he is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is support by documents and other objective evidence.”

So what’s a Dave King promise worth? Ask Mark Warburton. He came to Ibrox believing in big transfer war chests and the notion that he was joining a massive club. Within a year he’s been dissuaded enough of the idea of this as a project with a future to have already considered his position. He vanished entirely for nearly two months in the aftermath of the cup final in which, like in the semi, he named only five subs in an effort to focus the attention of the media and the fans on the threadbare nature of his squad.

That squad has barely moved forward. Oh a handful of players have been signed, but an equal number have left, and although more signings are supposed to be on the way we would do well to look at those the club has already brought in to gauge their likely worthiness. As before, I am grateful to the blogger Johnjames for his research on this; it was eye-opening and any Sevco fan not paying attention needs to wise up fast.

Josh Windass and Matt Crooks are being signed from Accrington Stanley for a combined total of £60,000. That’s £60,000 more than they’ve ever been sold for in their careers thus far. Windass, who the media hilariously claimed had been “attracting Arsenal” was playing for the mighty Harrogate Railway FC until Accrington took him on a free in 2013. Crooks has been on loan at Halifax, Hartlepool and the footballing dynasty at Radcliffe Borough.

Last year, Clint Hill, who’s 38, didn’t make the QPR squad in 24 of their games. He was on the bench, and never got on the park, in another 9. You might be forgiven for wondering if he’s injury prone, but in fact he’s fitter than some at Ibrox.

The same can’t be said of Jordan Rossiter, the Liverpool youth player, who’s made only five first team appearances for the club in two years. Last season he was a reserve player who injury derailed for 17 out of 22 Under 21 games. He is said to have serious underlying fitness issues, which would be tragic for a player so young and disastrous for the club which has signed him.

Matt Gilks, a 34 year old goalkeeper, has arrived from Burnley. He featured once last season, in the League Cup. He replaced the younger, better, Cammy Bell who has left for Dundee Utd.

They’ve signed Joey Barton, at 34, a guy who’s a walking liability with a Twitter feed that’s a recipe for disaster and a list of criminal offences matched, at Ibrox, only by Dave King himself. This guy is a time bomb waiting to blow. The irony is that he’s not a bad player, although nowhere near as good as he seems to believe himself.

And what of Niko Kranjcar, the Croatian “genius” who somehow didn’t manage to get into their European Championship squad, despite being the best footballer never to play in Scotland since Mario Jardel? Well, it’s not for nothing that Johnjames has called him the “9 minute Galactico” as that’s precisely how much game time he got last season at Dynamo Kiev. He went to the US after their season was done, and played 7 games.

This is the “standard” they are going for. Don’t let anyone kid you that this is a squad that can challenge Hearts and Aberdeen, far less Celtic. The total outlay is that £60,000 for the Accrington Stanley players, and they had to be forced to meet that commitment.

The website transfermarkt.com – not a definitive source because they traditionally underestimate what clubs are willing to pay for players, but one that has been praised by the Centre for Economic Performance – rates the Celtic squad’s total value to be £39.9 million. The second most valuable squad in the league is rated as that of Aberdeen, at £6.73 million, followed by Hearts £6.19 million, St Johnstone £5.66 million and Ross County £4.67 million.

Sevco’s squad is rated as worth a little more than that, at £4.9 million. For all the talk about them being the “second biggest club in the country” their team is rated as worth less than the Dundee Utd side that was relegated last year, which was valued at £5.08 million.

This is most definitely not what was promised to their fans when King took over.

The £30 million war-chests have never come to pass. The over-investment has never been forthcoming. This club might be charging big money for season tickets, yet its playing staff was recruited right out of the cheap seats. Yet in spite of this, the club remains a loss making company with no clear path towards raising the sort of funds that will enable them to be more.

Sevco is a financial basket case. Before Rangers was liquidated they had sold off or shut down every major revenue creation stream. The merchandising deal that they are so concerned with was the spiritual successor to Rangers one with JJB that was ridiculous in itself. That club tried making its own shirts. They tried entering into a TV partnership with STV, which followed on from their disastrous decision to do the famous NTL deal. None of this worked, but flogged valuable commercial assets for a pittance.

Now even the infrastructure which enabled them is gone. In his Q&A series with the fans, he’s admitted that the task of rebuilding that will cost a fortune and take years. He has neither the time nor the money to pull that off. The rewards for playing in the SPFL top flight aren’t lucrative enough to justify all the excitement over reaching it.

Only playing in Europe could bail them out of this, and anyone who thinks that squad would get past even meagre opposition needs a reality check. King says he’d spend to ensure it, but that puts us back on the carnival ride of lies again.

How many times has this site written about King’s financial predicament? Even if he had the money some have suggested, the South African government would make it difficult verging on impossible to remove it from the country by legal means. If he wants to play Russian roulette with their regulators he can do so, of course, but history suggests he’ll get caught.

All football is run on money these days. When you have costs which top £1 million a month before you even pay a football player you need to be bringing in a steady stream of it just to keep up. King could have made this work, but it would have involved being honest with people and that’s simply not within his DNA.

Like Gove and Johnson, King has played a good game of bluff and bullshit up until now, but as they both found out last Friday morning there comes a time when your distorted version of reality comes into contact with people holding notebooks who remember the promises. More important even than them, so do those you made those promises to and who gave you their trust on the back of them. For the Brexiters the full weight of their unwanted and unforeseen victory is now pressing down on them. For King, a season looms under circumstances he would never have wanted. He needed to raise expectations to sell tickets and with the media machine pumping out the propaganda those expectations are now sky high and wildly unrealistic.

King knows that; more to the point, so does his manager.

The new season looms in front of these people like a dark road with no clear destination at the end of it.

To paraphrase Harry Truman, King is the only person in the history of Scottish football in charge of a major club to talk out of both sides of his mouth and to tell the truth out of neither.

Sooner or later, that catches up to you, and sometimes when you least expect it.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Sums Sevco Style

rsz_istock_000017344562_fullOn Saturday, Sevco came within a few minutes of losing to Morton at home.

Denny Johnstone, the former Celtic player now at Cappielow, said his team went to Ibrox confident that they could get a result. Sides no longer fear going there, even second tier ones.

Chris Jack, one of Scotland’s “up and coming” sports journalists, a guy who simply can’t bring himself to write unemotionally about the club he loves, said no-one in the crowd should have been surprised.

A bad performance, he said, “was coming.”

Indeed it was. It had been “coming” for months, and in case he’s failed to notice it wasn’t the first time they’ve struggled badly. In fact, Warburton has been dropping points left, right and centre and his club was very lucky a late penalty decision didn’t go against them (I know, I laughed too) and that Hibs spent much of their game against Falkirk with ten men … because without those things the pressure would be unbelievable.

It’s mounting up.

What amazes me is that Jack, and others, are proposing a wholly unrealistic solution to the club’s problems; spending money.

There’s an obvious obstacle here; they’re skint.

It seems we can go over this issue over and over again, but some folk just aren’t getting it.

This baffles me, as I’m sure it baffles many of you.

Not the issue itself; we understand that just fine, as we’ve written and discussed many times.

What baffles us is that they don’t get it, and we wonder how they can keep on living in denial as they do.

Let’s go back in time for a minute, to the start of this season.

King was promising “overinvestment” but that talking halted the minute the team started to win a couple of matches. Most of us were never convinced by this nonsense talk in the first place; the figures, some as high as £20 million, were sheer pie in the sky.

They spent virtually nothing on transfer fees, and the pursuit of one player – John Eustace – became so convoluted that it was hilarious. One Celtic blog – Video Celts – got in the habit of ending every piece with the words “Mark Warburton expects to complete the deal in the next 24 hours.”

It remains unsealed to this day, and the player is a free agent.

Don’t be surprised if his name appears on the list of targets.

Let’s not forget that just six months ago we were being told that the club had plenty of money.

Back then, when hacks mentioned the Sports Direct £5 million, the word was that there was cash in the bank but as it wasn’t actually a loan there was no immediate need to pay it back.

All of a sudden, at the EGM, they announced that they’d need £2.5 million to get through the season.

No-one bothered about the £5 million at that point because there were other issues and most of the media had accepted the story about there being no need for repayment of that particular debt.

Now something else has changed.

At the recent AGM they told their fans that the money was going to repaid.

Of course, at that time they had no idea they’d lost the crucial resolution at that meeting, the one that would have given them option of selling more shares to raise some capital.

When they found that out they should have ceased with the bombast.

But King needed a way to bamboozle the Sports Direct lawyers last week, and so his legal team told the court that the bill was now paid. That didn’t turn out to be 100% accurate, as we all know well, with them now claiming they’re £500,000 short.

Do the sums.

Even if the court cases had cost them nothing at all the club that was going to have borrow £2.5 million from its directors to get through the season suddenly has to find £5 million more.

Why?

What’s changed?

If they’ve almost paid it off, where did they get the money?

Let’s try to look at this logically.

As far as we’re aware, they were under no real pressure on the £5 million.

If Sports Direct were asking for repayment they were doing so quietly, and under the radar. They appeared to understand that forcing the club wasn’t going to help anyone.

Sevco itself was dealing with the matter appropriately. There were bigger fish to fry, because the need to get through the season without administration is obviously of monumental importance.

If they hit the skids tomorrow they’ll be in serious trouble and promotion will look unlikely at best.

The cash to finish the current campaign needs to be found, at all costs.

The signing of players was always going to come second best to that and Warburton needs to start grasping that fact, and quickly. That he’s keeping the faith is admirable, I suppose, but he’s probably not studied these matters, or those he works for, as much as we have.

So some belt tightening was already going to have to happen, and the manager’s chances of getting anything to spend were already going to be somewhere between slim and none.

The decision to pay the £5 million – if indeed it was taken – appears ridiculous in light of that, even if you accept the contemptible nonsense King was talking about at the AGM, of the club’s financial position being “the envy of world football.”

The paying back of £5 million you don’t have to … that’s just dumb.

Who made that decision?

King himself, or so it seems. He told the AGM he had a teleconference with the other directors and they agreed that it should be done. From that, we can infer that the proposal was his.

So what motivated it?

Was it to avoid the court cases?

Maybe, but Sports Direct’s case of last week appeared pretty weak, at least as far as King going to jail was concerned, and on top of that Ashley doesn’t give off the impression that he’s willing to negotiate a settlement at this point.

If the club finds the money he’ll take it, but I would bet on it changing nothing in their relationship.

The more you look at this, the more King’s decision looks like pure ego on the one hand sheer presumption on the other. After all, the cash, if it’s coming, isn’t coming from his own pockets here.

As far as the manager goes, it hardly matters what the reasoning was.

Warburton wants a transfer kitty at a time when the club needs to find anywhere between £3 million – £7.5 million – depending on whether you accept that they need the full amount or are only £500,000 short – before the directors give him a thought at all, and this doesn’t take into account their voluminous legal fees or whatever the ongoing situation with Ibrox maintenance is going to cost them.

How much money do they really need?

There are a lot of unknowns.

But one thing I know for sure; the manager isn’t getting a fortune to spend on players, not even the Scottish equivalent of one.

From where I’m sitting, Warburton would be better trying to pull rabbits out of his magic hat than waiting on King coming through with the cash. Even if your business knowledge extends further than Sums Sevco Style there’s no easy way to raise that kind of cash.

I’ll tell you something else too, and it appears to be largely ignored by their fans and the press; when a manager has a playing budget four or five times bigger than any other club in the league and still needs to spend money in the January transfer window in order to be sure of success then I’d suggest he’s just another chequebook boss without a clue as to how to really build a football team.

That’s another aspect of this the media would rather not go into.

But the window is nearly open.

By the end of it, the eyes of even the blindest Sevco fan will surely do the same.

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