Whilst we are in pre-season and because the mindless speculation is getting tedious, I feel it best to discuss times that were so bad to remind ourselves that not everything is as bad as it seems.
We are where in in no large part due to the damage done by a two year period of this clubs history. In fact as with most things you can trace a lineage further back, with smaller causes and consequences. But for me the trigger point lies with David Platt.
The club had just been relegated, and had spent quite a bit to try to and retain Premier League status. However we had received sizeable figures for Steve Stone and then Pierre van Hooijdonk. As well the fees recouped for Colin Cooper and Kevin Campbell, but had splashed on players like Carlton Palmer, Bernard Allou, Jesper Matsson and Nigel Quashie.
Platt took over the squad and really it should have been better equipped for life in the second tier. Players signed in the Premiership had come and many gone but the legacy remained with higher waged players like Chris Bart-Williams. But these players were surely too good for the second tier.
What he did was take a sizable chunk of cash and blow it. Gianluca Petrachi, Salvatore Matrecano and Moreno Mannini are names that will forever be associated with inadequate overpriced foreign imports. Petrachi was Abdoun for the Nu-Metal generation. Matrecano was slow and cumbersome and Mannini was simply just way past it. That was £5million blown in that triple swoop. Even now it’s a lot of cash, but back then that was ridiculous. Riccardo Scimeca came in for £3mill and although he eventually was a handy midfielder, he struggled at first in the side and belied his transfer fee and wages of being one of the countries former most promising central defenders. No doubt talented, just not right club at right time. Stern John came in similarly struggled to adapt, and Jim Brennan was signed at left back. These pair cost another £3.5mill between them.
Spending £11.5 million on half a team in almost unthinkable now, never mind back then. There were assorted smaller purchases too and no doubt expensive loans. Tony Vaughan and Jack Lester arrived. Ian Wright was loaned as well as a young John Terry. Numerous kids were blooded (Prutton, Merino, Williams, Doig, Edds) whilst older heads were frozen out (Crossley, Woan)
The team as chopped and changed as Platt looked for a secret recipe, but it never came. It was like he didn’t know how to build a team. I was at University at the time, so only got a game about 2/3 months. I’d never recognise half the squad as Platt would have changed the whole team again. ‘Is that Edds? Is that Williams, what the hell!! ?’
We finished the season closer to relegation than Promotion, and we’d been red hot favourites to go up.
Season 2 got better, but the Football wasn’t great. Further expensive incomes came in. David Johnson arrived for £3mill plus. The loans of Robbie Blake and Ben Olsen were successes, and Matthew Upson also came in on loan, as well as Francis Benali. However none of these would have been cheap. It had been Blake who helped reinvigorate the season. Johnson initially didn’t work out very well, but there were good wins. We finished 6 points off the playoffs, and further youngsters stepped up. Jenas made his debut, Dawson and Harewood were improving. But still Platt wasn’t getting it right. Signings like Gary Jones illustrated he was prone to bad decisions.
Ultimately when he left he handed the reigns to Paul Hart who moulded a young team together and led it to the brink of success. Eventually however the financial problems meant we were stripped of prized assets and had to sell youngsters, replacing with journeymen players who weren’t good enough and we went down to League One.
Now David Platt wasn’t in charge of the purse strings per se. He targeted players but others signed off on the expensive outlays that cost us. The far bigger villains were Nigel Wray and Irving Scholar who we have spoken about before, they asset stripped and tried to profit off the club. They failed. The share scheme cost a lot of fans a lot of money. Money they lost. For that they will always be far more culpable, but David Platt is a similarly disastrous name in this clubs history.
Another man may have signed better suited players and got us promoted and back in the money. Without the huge debt, the League One years may never have occurred. Young players may have been retained for longer rather than Jenas being sold off to save the club. All because Platt was inept.And we are still paying the penalty for it.