I’m sure there’s a character near the start of Harry Potter who tells Harry "Wizards don’t choose their wands, the wands choose the wizards", and that is generally true of football teams too. May be not for those armchair bound glory hunters who change their team annually to follow the latest fashions – but for the real supporter – those on the terraces or in the stand, in wind and rain – most football fans acquire their team early in life – often for indeterminable reasons – and they stick with that team – for better or for worse – throughout their lives.
That’s certainly what happened to me, and somehow, back in the mists of time, I managed to become a supporter of Chester City.
We were never a big team, we ambled along harmlessly around the fourth tier of English football. We had our glory days and we had our poor days like any other. The old timers still talk of that day in 1965 when we held the lead against Manchester United at Old Trafford for a whole glorious hour, until two late goals sent us out of the cup. Of the 1974/75 season when we unbelievably reached the semi final of the League Cup, taking the scalps of Leeds and Newcastle United on the way, before being edged out by Aston Villa. That same season we gained promotion to division 3 for the first time in our history.
There were the bad days too. Forced out of our original ground by unscrupulous property developers, forced to play "home" games 30 miles away until a new stadium – a poor echo of our former home – could be built. I remember watching miserably as we crashed 7-1 at home to Brighton, or were knocked out of the cup by non league times. But we always had our team, our stories and memories and our hopes that, who knows, next year it might be our turn.
But for how much longer – tomorrow we are due to take on Eastbourne Borough in what may be our last ever game – if not tomorrow then that last game is only just around the corner. And all because of one man – Stephen Vaughan – a Liverpool boxing promoter who bought the club eight years ago – and has recently overseen its demise.
Most football teams depend on sugar daddies to keep them safe. The premiership teams have Russian Billionaires or Middle Eastern sheiks to pay the bills. Further down the leagues they depend on wealthy local business men to put back into their local community and help keep afloat the team they supported when they were kids. And Chester – we get Stephen Vaughan. No one knows just what he is, his money allegedly derived from drug dealing gangs or VAT swindles, as he uses our club as a front for his money laundering schemes. He is a 100% shareholder – he owns the club -so basically he could do what he liked unchallenged by the grass roots supporters – or at least he did until last month when he was banned from holding company directorships for another scam – so he passed ownership to his 24 year old son – to keep his business in the family.
At first all seemed rosy – the team rose a division and we had high hopes – but one day it was announced that one of the club’s major benefactors had died. Everyone was mystified until someone put two and two together – linking the name given for this "benefactor" with a gang land shooting on Merseyside where a leading drug baron met his death.
Since then, things have gone down hill, the club has had no new investment, they have defaulted on loans, failed to pay the players and support has ebbed away. The league meet next week to consider ejecting Chester from the league, and most remaining supporters think that this is the only solution. Chester needs to rid itself of the Vaughans.
There have been so many offers – true supporters – with funds – desperate to buy and save the club, but Vaughan has refused to sell, holding out for ridiculous amounts of money and refusing to let potential buyers see the books. Everyone believes that were any one with financial or legal expertise see the company books then they would find enough evidence to put Vaughan away for a long time. So it is clear that the only way that Chester City can be separated from Vaughan is when one of them dies – taking his ugly secrets to the grave – and it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is the club that will die.
So maybe tomorrow, or maybe next week 125 years of history will be laid to rest, 125 years of local people’s hopes and fears, all because of one crook’s wheeling and dealing, and to try to preserve his skin. The Vaughan story will make fascinating reading when it all comes out in the courts – as surely one day it must – it won’t make national headlines – but still many will grieve around Chester – as he sinks their football team in a last gasp attempt to save his skin.