Date: 21-09-19Colin Gordon’s legacy is four years of decline and mounting apathyBy Harry Taylor

21-09-19 - Opinion - Colin Gordon’s legacy is four years of decline and mounting apathy

The end of a revolution is almost always silent. There may be public outcry beforehand, but the passage of power is only as loud as a pen on paper.

So after months of unhappiness among Kidderminster Harriers fans it’s only natural that the change at the top of the club was discovered on Companies House. Colin Gordon is no longer the owner.

Colin Gordon
Colin Gordon
Is the vision a distant memory

His spell as custodian has been a story of alienation and decline. When he took over in September 2015, the Harriers had won their first game of the season at the 19th attempt. Fast forward three seasons and the club finished at its lowest point in the pyramid since James Callaghan occupied Downing Street in the late 1970s.

That first term provided a pattern for things to come. When there was a wobble, Colin would sack his manager, wade in, and try and run the show himself. He had three spells at the dugout, which saw a relegation, and a nosedive from playoffs to midtable obscurity.

Much was promised. A University of Kidderminster, a free school and new stadium in Stourport Road were all talked up.

Fans were told that the team was going to “play the right way” from top to bottom as the club tried to model itself on a Barcelona passing-style. Naysayers needed to be educated, the chief said. Instead “playing the right way” became an ironic joke as the Harriers failed to break down yet another part-time team at home and dull performances mounted.

The Harriers becoming a subject of dark humour among its own fanbase was typical of a shift in how supporters felt about the club. This season the peeling sponsors board for new owner Richard Lane’s EBC group on the Main Stand has become an sad barometer for the health of the club.

His tenure has seen many season ticket holders and regulars start to find other things to do on a Saturday. It no longer felt like “their club”.

After a poor 2-1 loss at home to Leamington at the end of last season, with the club still chasing the playoffs, there wasn’t the typical outcry radiating from the terraces. Instead the 1400 home fans put their hands in their pockets, grumbled under their breath, and walked away. The connection had been lost.

When Gordon came into the club he told of finding shocking contracts being offered to players and managers: Kidderminster Harriers were going to live within their means.

So when a three-year contract was offered to a 32 year old defender eyebrows were raised. The same was the case when £75,000 was paid for Dan Bradley. It seemed the sustainable approach to squad building was gone.

Richard Lane
Richard Lane
Is he the one that saves us

It was the same off the field. Gordon told fans that the club “needed” to leave Aggborough if the club had any ambition to reach its potential, it failed to find a shirt sponsor last season, and a popular chief executive departed to be replaced with Gordon’s daughter, a partner in the G5 Sports Consultancy Company who had bought the club.

For somebody whose career as a football agent had been built on winning people around and persuasion, it was an abject failure to get people to “buy-in” to the vision.

Despite his grounding in the game the team successively went backwards. The side he managed twice in his first season as owner put up a fight but lacked the investment to avoid relegation and failed.

He then appointed novice John Eustace who assembled an attractive side with all the robustness of a Fabergé egg. Not only did both of Eustace’s teams conspire to lose at the first hurdle in the National North play-offs, but one of them blew a four-goal lead in the last ten minutes at home to Salford City in 2017. Eustace left in May 2018 for a job at Championship side QPR.

The worst was yet to come. Last season saw Gordon return to the training ground after yet another shock cup defeat to Stourbridge FC. After a good start the club then dropped from 2nd to 9th, winning twice in twelve games and the top-scorer Joe Ironside was bizarrely sent out on loan and told he was no longer wanted.

New boss Neil MacFarlane was fired and Colin was in the hot-seat again. We’d seen it all before.

It was only when form nosedived even further that he recalled Ironside and sent for former captain and manager Mark Yates. Typically the two fell out with two games to go, and a spat on Facebook ensued.

Further defeats saw Gordon rant on the airwaves after an end of season defeat to Guiseley. Never again, fans were told, and it was clear that the wheels were coming off.

Just when fans thought the club had reached a shambolic nadir, this season saw the club start the campaign without a full complement of full-time professionals. Some pre-season friendlies were filled with youth teamers as a first-team side could not be put out for fear of injuries.

Despite regular requests from fans for information the club turned silent. The once-regular bombastic “State of the Nation” video addresses from Gordon were nowhere to be seen. It was topped off with youth team coaches only being partly paid last month.

Colin Gordon & Richard Lane
Colin Gordon & Richard Lane
Obviously taken when they were friends

In seasons past concerned fans were branded “knockers”, “keyboard warriors” and worse. After a bust-up with the long established supporters group KHIST he set up an alternative supporters club and started a campaign to undermine the group and its 2020 lottery. The quasi in-house lottery set up in its place has yet to see many Harriers supporters win very much or very often.

Even once devotees of Colin Gordon’s university vision were starting to raise an eyebrow and began to either ask questions or fade away into the corner.

This is Colin Gordon’s legacy. Regression on the pitch and a surge in apathy from dyed in the wool supporters.

Time will tell whether his university plans will make the club sustainable. It may be akin to John Major’s decision to set-up the National Lottery in 1994 and the funding from it successfully contributing to Team GB’s performance at the 2016 Olympics. History may smile on Gordon, but there won’t be many who were sad to see him go today.

One of the first things Richard Lane needs to do, if he becomes chairman, is to go on a charm offensive with the supporters. The club and its fanbase needs to move on and the connection between them needs restoring. A free fans forum would help.

The first team squad isn’t far away from challenging for the playoffs, but desperately needs bolstering. One of the few positives this season has been our current manager John Pemberton. His exasperated approach is the closest the club has got to empathising with supporters in a long time. It would be churlish to waste that.

Gordon saved the club when he took over but just surviving isn’t good enough. Lane has the opportunity now to turn around the club’s fortunes and to unite the club again.

The war has been won. It’s now about winning the peace.


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