- Aug 13, 2009
Uncle Albert, boots shining like a cyclists tail light,strode into the foyer of the Palace Hotel. As he did so a smartly dressed youngman hesitantly came forward to greet him. His job was to welcome all the Bluesshareholders as they arrived for the clubs AGM and he’d obviously beenforewarned not to expect suits but even so Albert in all his finery, Steptoe indrapes, certainly wasn’t what he had primed to expect.
Still, putting on his brightest smile, he said ‘Good eveningSir’ only to be met with a grunted response ‘Warezebar ?’. Clearly puzzled, butalso somewhat relieved that this could not possibly be a shareholder , the youngman started giving directions to the nearest park bench. At that moment Boycie,accompanied by Mike and Denzil, entered the hotel and this caused enough distractionfor Albert to be able to slip past his greeter and into a lift.
We had no idea where he was going, except possibly up, andgiven that the hotel had a number of floors that pretty much could meananywhere. Boycies Blues shirt clearly identified him as a shareholder and so,realising that somehow we were related to the strange apparition that had justescaped past him, the young man quickly gave us directions to the room wherethe meeting was going to be held; steadfastly hoping that we would be able toapprehend Albert before too much damage occurred.
A swift lift ascent later and we found ourselves entering alobby that was guarded by some fierce looking ladies. Instantly recognisable asbeing former ticket office staff they looked very formidable indeed. Proof thatthis was indeed the case being the fact that they had experienced no trouble atall in stopped Albert in his tracks and now he was being subjected to theirjoint interrogation. Difficult questions such as ‘Name sir ?’, clearlyflustered him so much that all he could keep repeating was ‘Warezebar ?’.
Deciding that this must be his name, one of the tamerlooking ladies began busily searching through her list of names in vain. “NoWarezebar here”, she eventually said signalling for one of the security men toescort Albert out of the building. Amusing as all this undoubtedly was, we neverthelesscouldn’t risk the gentle folk of Southend having their high street disturbed byan unescorted Albert, so at this point Boycie reluctantly stepped forward andlaid claim to him.
The relived staff didn’t know whether to cheer or commiserateBoycie upon his poor choice of family pet but eventually, names all ticked off,we were free to enter the ballroom where the AGM was to be hosted. It was linedwith rows of chairs all facing a small podium upon which presumably later Ronwould be performing his stuff. Meanwhile our attention was taken up by DavidCrown who was acting as the clubs ambassador and so chatting to people as they arrived.
Our attention elsewhere, Albert once more disappeared.Resigned to having to conduct a long search we first of all claimed some seats(For some reason Denzil insisted that we sat right down the front, must be ahangover from barn assemblies or something) before commencing our explorationof the hotel. At first there was no sign of him but then, literally there was !An arrow upon a wall advertised the direction of the bar. Where else could hebe !
And sure enough that’s where we found him clutching an emptybeer glass. So with fingers crossed that his intake of alcohol would result insleep rather than ‘Sing a longa Teddyboy’ we steered him back to his seat andprayed.
Fortunately the meeting started soon afterwards with Ronapologising for there being an 18 month gap between AGM’s. The reason he saidwas to give Tara Brady time to learn the business before being subjected toshareholders questions. He also explained that he himself had been verystretched by some of the events that had taken place over that time and so hadn’tbeen able to give the club as much attention as it deserved. He promised to dobetter in the future.
Geoff King then took over and the tiresome business ofagreeing the last AGMs minutes, the clubs accounts and the election of someboard members including newbie and ex Millwall chairman Stewart Till began.Events were brightened up though by some shareholders who, obviously up for a givingthe board a rough ride, demanded thatboth Tara and Stewart provide a resume of both their backgrounds and explained whythe wished to join the board of Southend United.
Somewhat taken aback, Tara nevertheless gave a good accountof himself as indeed so did Till, whose talents in the marketing arena were whathad encouraged Ron to invite him to join the board. Ron then took over the mike, promising that more board changes layahead as he reshaped the club in preparation for the future and the newstadium.
Questions were then invited from the floor and duly arrived.Some were bruising in both their nature and delivery but generally there was afar more relaxed atmosphere than at the previous AGM. Especially as by now Albertwas enjoying a senior moment having fallen into a doze, presumably countingempty beer glasses !
Here’s the highlight’s of what was revealed by the board
· Dropping down into Division II costs the clubaround a million pound a season. This roughly explains away the £100,000 amonth loss that Tara had early referred to. Accordingly we had to get promotionas quickly as possible.
· All the legal fees for the clubs battle withHMRC and other parties had been funded from Ron’s pocket and not the club. Weare completely up to date with all our tax payments but the tax man was keepingan eagle eye on us, even phoning up ahead of a due date to ensure that he hadn’tbeen forgotten !
· Premiership clubs had decided not to offer any oftheir players, apart from youths, to clubs in Division II. This was one of the reasonswhy loan players did not arrive during our injury crisis. The other was thatSturrock, feeling that experiments with players like the youngster from QPR hadn’tworked, was not willing to go down that road again.
· The club’s reputation wasn’t affecting loanplayers as their parent club’s paid their wages. We pay the club, not theindividual. But our standing as a second division club did. It also made us vulnerableto losing key players; something that both Ron and Sturrock were keen toprevent happening.
· The away kit next season will be pink !!! Someof the team were quite pleased but other, led by Easton, were not overly impressed.
· Tenders for building the new stadium and the Sainsburystore will go out at the beginning of May with responses being required by mid July.A preferred builder will then be selected and contract talks initiated. Notimescales, but Ron’s summer looks like being at least an Indian one !
· The stadium will have four sides. Confusion hadbeen caused as the work had been broken down into what the Sainsbury moneywould cover (3 sides) and what had to funded elsewhere – the fourth ! Talks arecurrently being held with a hotel chain to obtain this funding.
· Progress was being made to buy out the shopsthat are preventing the redevelopment of Roots Hall with only one owner refusingto talk to the club other than through his legal team. CPO’s would be the lastresort and probably only in relation to this individual as talks were goingwell with the others.
· We have everyone back from corners because 60%of goals come from such situations. Sturrock has always had his teams play thisway and we are currently letting in goals from such situations at a rate of 45%which is felt to be good.
· The question of allowing home fans to use theNorth Bank was discussed with Tara explaining that, because of safety/securitycosts, the club would always endure a loss unless we completely filled the stand.
The evening ended with drinks (wine - red or white) and sandwiches.It also provided an opportunity for people to talk to the board and Sturrockmore informally with many people taking the opportunity to do so. We howeverhad to keep concentrating on keeping a now very alert Albert from devouring allthe food on offer. He was a veritable hoover when it came to beef and mustard sandwicheswhich were disappearing down his gullet faster than any sea lion gulps downfish. In the end we had no choice but to lead him away and out into the warmevening night.
On the whole it had been an interesting and enjoyableevening. But the thought of wandering around a service station in a dayglo pinktop filled us with dread. Doubtless Marlene will be dead chuffed though !