Sucking heartily on life's half-time oranges

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Head To Head With The Godfather: When Kerry Met Steve

In one of my more surreal encounters with the good and great, I went for a drink last night with The Man Who Owns Wycombe Wanderers. Yes. The Boss. Steve Hayes, a very rich and successful man who also owns London Wasps. The Godfather! Having come across this blog, he suggested we meet in my manor, so we hooked up at the Eagle in Shoreditch. Ha ha!

Not being entirely sure why he would want to meet me, I was a little apprehensive that, displeased with my naughty slap-downs of the Blues, he was luring me into a trap. I'd be bundled into a car, and if not actually killed, then at least made to promise to only wax lyrical in future blogs, whilst having a gun pressed to my sweating temples. So I took along my own trusty henchman* for security, giggled at the impassive, sleekly black car outside the pub with the number-plate 'Blues' and waited, slightly nervously, inside.

Turns out he's a rather a nice chap. I had a comedy moment of half-offering to buy the multi-millionaire a drink before he plied us with chips (hhm, my henchman seemed fatally distracted at this point) and, well, just chatted, about Wycombe, and about the future of the club. Hilarious! Rather impressively, Steve likes to get down and dirty with the hoi polloi, and is frequently to be found buying fans drinks, going to supporter's club meetings, and showing old moaners he is keen to lend an ear and be open to ideas. He told me his plans for a new stadium, divulged how much (and how little) some players earn, and who he thought were cloth-eared.

There are a lot of fans who are not keen on Steve. In the summer last year, he took over WWFC good and proper, wresting supporter control from the club with something of an aggressive ultimatum. He's been criticised as a bully and a bit of a control freak. It's a tricky one, but it's a fact as bald as Pierluigi Collina that WWFC has a lamentable lack of support, given its catchement area, and no matter what the old codgers think, the club needs refreshing in order to start tempting the slack-eyed masses in Bucks and make some money. There's surely a few more thousand residents who are ripe for the plucking - where else do they think they can go to watch half-decent live football? It's rather fascinating to consider how a club could suffuse and enrich a community, which is exactly what Steve wants to do, even if he will be bringing the dastardly rugger-buggers along with him. His plans for an eye-catching, totally sustainable new ground, prioritising community and the environment, fashion him as one of the better sort of businessman, albeit maybe a rather brutal one. It's perhaps all to be taken with a pinch of salt, especially after reminding myself of this article. But it's done, and you might as well look at the positives of his takeover.

So, we discussed the economic ins and outs mano a girlo, as if I was freakin' Alan Sugar or something. And I actually felt that I was being USEFUL! As if I had some insight both into the world of education and today's YOOF, being, y'know, 31 and all, ahem. Even though Andy and I are arty-farty East Londoners and Steve is a pinstripe suit-wearing, wodges-of-£100s-coming-out-of-his ears sort of fellow, the blessed common denominator of le football levels all.

We left with kisses on the cheeks and him telling me to let him know when I'm next at an away match. I'm going to email him some thoughts, especially for how to get a bunch of young keen fans involved online, as hysterically he thinks I'm some sort of IT whizzkid. I'll probably become his omnipresent, svengali-like adviser a la Yoko to John, or slightly more demoniacally like Mandelson to Blair. Watch this space.

In a cross between a slightly sleazier Viggo Mortensen (hair) and Sean Bean (voice), WWFC's Gareth Ainsworth, sitting with his knees just a little too lothario-angled apart, wore a safe fitted stripey number as he talked about his caretaker manager job at QPR and about his sending-off against Millwall last weekend and the ensuing 21-man brawl. Whoops!

I also practically bawled at the wee retrospective featuring WWFC's Wembley play-off win to take us into the then League Two (now One) back in 1994, and especially at Dave Carroll's wandering wonder-goal. Sob!

* Also known as Andy

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