Columnist Ray Williams’ latest exclusive OVF column describes what he thought it was like working for the Jim Gannon regime at Vale Park.
Williams, part of the Vale Park backroom team, describes a divided and disenchanted coaching staff, masses of paperwork and a manager who appeared to do himself few favours during his brief spell in Burslem.
Ray Williams writes…
Jim Gannon’s first few days at the club were a real eye-opener. We had heard a bit of what to expect from Gareth Owen and a few more of my contacts in football but that only told half a story. At the end of day one he sat in the coach’s room with Mark Grew, Geoff and myself and proceeded to extol the virtues of managing in Europe, quoting Steua Bucharest, AC Milan and… Liam Dickinson!
According to Jim, the only way to play was with a lone striker and he tried to convince us with crazy diagrams on the whiteboard. The three of us looked at each other and looked to the heavens. At the end of the meeting the whiteboard looked as if a two year-old child had been let loose with a boardmarker. Jim sensed he had made a bad start but what could he do? He had agreed to work with us.
At the end of day two, he collared me alone in an effort to get to know me more. He started to ask me about my relationship with Mark and Geoff to see if we were a strong unit or whether he could divide us. Finally, we got to talk about scouting. I explained to him how I was frustrated at the club’s lack of action when I recommended loan signings, citing Ryan Amoo from Liverpool as an example.
The next day I arrived at work to find a letter on my desk from the manager. I thought this was odd as his office was only a few yards away and he could just as easily have come in and talked with me. Little did I know that Jim wanted everything in writing. The reason for the letter was that he couldn’t find anything in his office to see where I had recommended Ryan Amoo and that he was disappointed with my lack of paperwork. I explained to him that Micky Adams had cleared his office when he left, but I could tell that he was not happy.
Little did he know that his need to put pen to paper would lead to the infamous “BUSGATE AFFAIR”.
In February, Jim saw fit to write to the Chairman to complain about Geoff’s work. His relationship with all the staff had broken down by then and Bill Bratt was aware of the fact. Bill interviewed Geoff to try to find a solution and decided to show Geoff the letter. It was a huge mistake!
Things came to a head on Friday 25th February. The team boarded the bus for a long away trip and at Junction 15 of the M6, as the staff settled down at the front of the bus, Geoff went on the attack.
“What have you been saying to the Chairman?” Geoff asked. “What are you talking about?” said Jim.
The argument escalated and in the end Geoff told Jim: “The chairman has shown me the letter – you f——g LIAR!”
Jim felt threatened as they were getting louder and louder. It looked like Geoff wanted to thump him. The players couldn’t believe it and were tweeting like mad.
The bus stopped at Hilton Park Services where Jim got off and crossed over to the North-bound side. He had arranged a lift back to Vale Park where Bill Bratt was waiting.
With hindsight, Geoff should have got off the bus, but Jim had had enough. The episode had reached OVF before Jim reached Vale Park. Sky Sports news reports followed and Jim had lived up to his reputation of upsetting folks.
On Saturday, Jim had had his meeting with the chairman and returned to take the team for the match. The players were gutted!
Gannon didn’t last long after that. He would have been wise NOT to write letters.
The day he went he didn’t say goodbye to anyone but the players watched him drive away before opening the fridge in the dressing room to reveal cans of lager and a huge cake.
A good time was had by all.
This column contains Ray Williams’ personal views and reflections