Sunday, 13 May 2012

Charles Green, he sells the team

Charles Green arrived at Bramall Lane in September 1995 and was appointed as Chief Executive by Manchester businessman Mike McDonald in February 1996, following the latter's takeover of the club. With McDonald making a number of laudable objectives to try and lift the Blades out of the doldrums; Green's job, as McDonald's man on the ground, was to make it happen. Green's appointment and involvement was sold as a positive thing for United. Presented as "a football man" thanks to his involvement as a professional player until injury ended his career and his focus switched to business.

What actually occurred over the next three years was a turnaround of fortunes on the pitch and the signing of relatively big name players for the Championship, but the rug was pulled from under it all before any tangible success was achieved.

The early days of Green's involvement saw Dave Bassett's reign as manager come to an end. With supporter discontent high, yet a recognition of what Bassett had achieved for the club, there were mixed emotions around Bramall Lane when Bassett left by mutual consent. That should have been that, but an agreed compensation package didn’t materialise as Bassett had expected and he later stated that an attempt to argue his case with Green led to the latter offering to sort it out in the car park, allegedly not the only time such managerial tactics were employed.

Under Bassett’s replacement, Howard Kendall, United went through a significant turnover of players as funds were provided to increase the quality of the squad. As United escaped relegation and the following season reached the play off final, the club seemed to be on the up, despite the last minute play off final defeat to Palace. However, little did the fans know the extent to which problems were bubbling away beneath the surface. Problems derived from over ambition at board level and some incredibly poor decision making by Green that would start to unravel in the following 18 months and beyond.

United continued to invest in well-known players; he return of former hero Brian Deane was presented as a coup for the club. Dean Saunders was also signed. With Jan Aage Fjortoft and Gareth Taylor already at the club, the Blades had an embarrassment of riches in terms of attacking quality. However it had come at an unsustainable price.

In the summer of 1998 Steve Bruce was appointed manager and was reportedly staggered at some of the salaries and contracts negotiated by Green. A fans forum was told that Saunders and Deane together were being paid more than Dave Bassett's entire squad of three years previous.

Deane himself has talked of how he tried to temper negotiations so the club didn’t end up with problems.

“I bought into what I was being told by the Chief Executive at the time (Charles Green) as to what they wanted to achieve at Sheffield United. I was really up for it. They even offered me a two year contract and I said, “Look, I’ll sign a one year contract and we will review it”.

I had been in the Premier League with Leeds on Premier League wages, although nothing like what they are today. It was a contract where I thought that if we aren’t promoted it is going to be hard for the club to be able to afford it in this division. At the time I was thinking that I really want to be here and if you’re telling me that we are going to build a team that is capable of going up and then competing in the Premier League, then I’m in for that. I’d seen Paul Merson go up to Middlesbrough, he was still at the peak of his powers, so they obviously had a plan and I wanted to do the same at United. “

Howard Kendall returned to Everton and in a surprising move Nigel Spackman, on United’s books as a player, was appointed as manager, his first managerial role. This is when things started to unravel. Following Spackman's appointment as manager Charles Green stated that the manager had signed a three year deal. However, rumours persisted that Spackman hadn't actually signed it. A playing contract remained in place, on more advantageous terms to the managerial contract and so the latter remained unsigned. Green was increasingly seen as untrustworthy by the fans.

Mounting financial losses led to player departures, alongside long term injuries to key players, this led to Spackman asking for funds for new players. Green's response was to sell £2.5m of players, claiming that this wouldn't affect the club's promotion prospects.

Fans increasingly believed that Green was interfering in team affairs. The persistent questioning on the matter was irritating Spackman and led to Mike McDonald issuing a statement refuting the rumours and saying a three hour meeting had been held to thrash out the issue. Maybe director involvement in team affairs is more common now and wouldn’t cause as much fuss. It wasn’t that outwardly common then and it was upsetting fans. It was as if Green believed his brief involvement in the game as a player made him qualified to be involved in what should be managerial duties. There are those who believe he had a say in picking the team, although this has never been proved.

During Green's reign as Chief Executive, several long-standing members of staff left Bramall Lane; including the club physio, kit man and several backroom staff. This built on rumours questioning who was managing these key team roles; Spackman or Green. Departing players talked of increased director involvement and team unrest as players were being "treated as pawns".

Green told the press that Utrecht had enquired after popular striker Gareth Taylor, to which Taylor responded that he knew nothing of it and was in the dark on the whole situation. In the end, interviews given by Spackman and a FC Utrecht spokesman suggested that a player would have to be leaving Bramall Lane, whether it Taylor or another saleable asset. It was something Spackman admitted he had little say over. Then Mike McDonald admitted that players would have to be sold to stave off financial suicide.

His argument was that the attendances were not high enough to support the squad size and wage bill. He suggested that he had been led to believe that crowds would increase with successful football and investment in the team, but it hadn’t happened. That risk taking was, apparently, the fans fault. This “financial suicide” that McDonald referred to was something he and Green had personally presided over. To take the phrase used by the chairman of another Yorkshire based club following their financial suicide, there was an element of them "living the dream".

At the end of the day McDonald was in it to make money and the decisions he and Green had implemented were losing money on a weekly basis, albeit with on-pitch success. Prior to buying United he had failed to achieve a takeover of his beloved Manchester City and this was an alternative chance to “invest” in football. He had even admitted United had been his choice, because they represented a better opportunity to make money.

Eventually things came to a head when Deane and Fjortoft were sold on the same day, with manager Spackman not even aware of the deal. He was aware Fjortoft may be on his way to Barnsley, but thought Deane was late for training until he spoke to him on the phone and found he was in Lisbon, heading for talks with Benfica. It was portrayed in the media as players wanting to leave, but Brian Deane recalls differently;

“There is a lot about leaving United that I still cannot get to the bottom of. There are some things that I am still in the dark about. When I heard that I had wanted to leave, I wondered where that came from. I never said that.”

Green was becoming increasingly irascible. Apparently challenged by then director (now majority shareholder) Kevin McCabe and others that they would be lynched if Deane and Fjortoft were sold on the same day, Green's response was to say he didn't give a damn and that he would sell Taylor as well. As further players criticised the McDonald/Green regime, including Fjortoft, the only thing the duo could do was resort to personal slurs. Fjortoft - scorer of 23 goals in 42 games was branded "lazy" and Fjortoft was quick to respond to with both anger and an eagerness to expose further “lies” of Green and McDonald.

Spackman eventually resigned shortly after this double blow of having his two best strikers sold without his knowledge. The striking duo's departure had been followed by the sale of Don Hutchison and the departure of Spackman's assistant Willie Donachie, who left for Manchester City. His departure was followed by more slurs from McDonald/Green; McDonald claiming Spackman’s appointment was one he was never 100% happy with despite his public positivity when those questioned his lack of experience at the time.

With United challenging for promotion to the Premier League and on a decent FA Cup run, fans could see the season unravelling. They had been sold a pup by McDonald and Green yet they were the ones who were apparently to blame. Fans chanted "Charles Green, he sells the team". They were right. He had built a team with signings he had made, on wages the club couldn’t afford and McDonald was unwilling to subsidise. In the end, under temporary manager Steve Thompson, United lost in the play offs and in the cup semi-final. A season that had promised much, had delivered some great games, but no end product.

"I am Chief Executive. I take the decisons and I live by them" was Green’s retort to criticism of his operations. In the end he died by them. His position becoming increasingly untenable, in March 1998, Green's role was "redefined" and moved away from team and management affairs; his removal from the club impossible at the time due to pro-McDonald factions on the board. His eventual resignation saw him receiving a payment in excess of £100,000 an amount that caused consternation and raised questions when highlighted by fans and shareholders at the AGM. He didn’t do badly for himself out of a relatively unsuccessful spell at Bramall Lane.

In between times new manager Steve Bruce had become increasingly vocal about the difficulty of doing his job, players were targeted but not signed, and existing players were sold. It was like managing with his hands tied behind his back. He was paying the price for previous gambles that hadn’t been given the chance to pay off. The plug pulled in panic. No-one can say whether United would have reached the Premier League if Deane, Fjortoft, Hutchison and others hadn’t been sold but, given the margins involved there must have been a good chance.

Charles Green is a much vilified figure at Bramall Lane. He may have just been a puppet for McDonald; he may have been the ultimate decision maker, guiding the investor. Either way the manner by which he went about his business won him few friends within the club, or with the fans.

Now, after a significant absence, Green is back in football with Rangers. The fans should treat his arrival with caution. What his role will be day-to-day remains to be seen. But the last thing Rangers need now is a man who takes risks, a man who panics when the risks don’t pay off and a man who fans doubt they can trust. 

If you want to know more about Green’s time at United and the various boardroom machinations over 30 years at a football club, I can recommend Fit & Proper:Conflicts & Conscience in an English Football Club. A real eye opening book, whether you are a Blades fan or not. I am indebted to the book for reminding me of the timeline and key events.


  1. Beginning of the end for Rangers under Green... Gers' fans beware.

  2. The end began for us almost 10 years ago when the dodgy Sir David Murray had us £98,000,000 in the shitter. It's been a shambles ever since and credit has to go to Alex McLeish and Walter Smith for winning 5 titles between them in that period. I expect the very worst from Green who is another Arfur Daley character that Craig Whyte's administrators Duff & Phelps have managed to find under a stone.

  3. Some of those titles will be stripped pal. Some of those titles were also paid for with tax payers money. The reckless spending that bought those titles is what has put Rangers where they are.

    Credit to Smith? He spent more money than Neil Lennon last season. Oh, except that some of that money hasn't reached the clubs it is owed to.

    It's an over used term but there probably isn't a more fitting time to use it - karma's a bitch.

    1. Spent more money than Lennon, get your facts right

      Think you'll find lemon has spent a fair bit more

      It's not like you bhoys to have dillusions of grandure ha ha ha ha

  4. Typical jealous septic fan! Haha nae titles will be stripped 54 and countin catch us if u can! If u do ur research rite ul find ur own team stil owe clubs money for players yous have just used to win the league! Plus the £7 million debt yous are in haha! nugget! WATP!

  5. Seems rise in ticket for season books are first in line ..Good to see blades slowly getting back to the top.

  6. Hahaha did i just read a hun laugh at us for being 7million in debt?!?!? Lol

    Aaawwww the huns are desperate!! Shame x

    And once your newco rfc* is form your titles are reset to 0 : no history!!
    Im sure we will reach 55 before you do haha
    Yyyaaassss championeeez

  7. The STV link merely confirms that the net transfer spend for Smith's final season was higher than Lennon's.

    That article should be grim reading for any Rangers fan. -£13m over the 5 year period shown. Every other club - apart from St. Johnstone - made a profit over the same period. And like the earlier poster said, Rangers were not all that different from Celtic in quality.

    The point about Celtic owing money for transfers is pretty stupid. Most transfers are done in installments these days by many clubs and they have the means to pay them on time. Unlike Rangers, who seemingly have no interest in paying their dues at all. Debt is a not necessarily the issue, it's whether you can manage the debt which evidently Rangers couldn't and they resorted to not paying tax in favour of continuing to pay high wages. This is why they are in administration you dullard.

    Why won't titles be stripped? No-one's suggesting it's down to debt. It's because of 'non-discretionary payments' to players. The punishment for this is a 3-0 defeat for every game where players who were paid in this way were fielded. Over 70 were paid in this way over a more than a 10 year period.

    The smugness coming from some of these Rangers supporters is quite bizarre. Your club is about to die and its reputation is in tatters.

    p.s. what is a 'dillusion' of 'grandure'? moron

  8. Why don't you Tims take your sad lives back to worrying about your own team. Enjoy your one in a row because that's where the sequence ends.

    As for Green, seems he originally invested (over-invested?) heavily at Sheffield. There won't be any danger of that at Ibrox. Next two or three seasons will be spent putting us on a break even budget and that will be good for the club. As long as our future ambitions are to remain as top dogs in Scotland and treat any European advancement as a bonus then we'll do OK.

    If we can survive the evil machinations of Whyte we can ride out any storm.

  9. Deary me Rangers fans, when will you ever learn?

  10. As a neutral i find it astonishing that rangers fans are still believing the propaganda machine!
    The facts are very simple, rangers are in the verge of disappearing into the history books for ever and yet still the fans still have this "we are the people mentality"
    Truly unbelievable!

    1. A neutral fan. Aye right.

    2. You do realise that all of Scottish football has now turned against Rangers don't you? Not just Celtic fans.

  11. As a spurs fan Why are celtic fans totally obsessed with rangers ? I also heard today that a group of Celtic fans went to rangers ground and attacked staff and caused damage . I have never heard of l fans going to rivals stadium , very strange club .

    1. To escape their own sad existence they seek to live their lives vicariously in the Rangers world. Apart from the low life behaviour of turning up at Ibrox and chucking a few missiles it should be noted that this was on the day when they had a 5-0 win and were presented with the league trophy. Anybody with an IQ larger than their sock size would be in a hostelry toasting their team.

  12. Spurs fan, the Rangers story is of importance to Celtic fans - and indeed fans of all other SPL teams - because whatever happens will have a big impact on Scottish football. It's also the fact that Rangers have cheated the rest of Scottish football for over a decade. Can you blame non-Rangers fans for taking an avid interest?

  13. Mr green has took rangers on to make money good luck to him on that i hope he make`s his billion ;D

  14. What is it with you Tims. You are obsessed with Rangers. How have Rangers cheated? The EBT's will be proven to be legal!unlike the activities that happened to young boys at your place. It might also be worth mentioning that when crowds at the Glitterdome were around 30,000 yet it was announced they were only 20,000 - who was cheating the taxman??

  15. The situation at Ibrox is desperate, but the bigger picture is that the whole of the SPL will be in dire straits within 2-3 years if Rangers were "allowed to die". A newco with u18 players starting in the third division would take too long to get back up and retain the all-important fan base. that makes the SPL less and less attractive to sponsors, TV deals and. most importantly of all, quality players. Celtic may compete well in Europe for a year or three with the current squad, but dull SPL football week in week out will take its toll and Celtic will be dragged down into the mire with the rest of the SPL. Rod Petrie et al may come out with grandiose "sporting integrity" rhetoric, but the simple fact is that the current problems will not be the fault of any new regime and punishing Rangers for the future will not punish the real wrongdoers. It will only punish current and future fans of ALL clubs. Football is a business and if Scottish football wants to survive in any more successful form than the Leagues of Ireland or Wales, it will need to face reality and make the correct business decision - points deduction for Rangers for 3 years to satisfy some sense of "justice" as well as the finacial penalty already dished out would seem about right to ensure the survival of the product. Use the opportunity to wrest control from the old firm and creat a more competitive league, for sure, kill the geese that lay the golden egges. Celtic and Rangers alike should have nothing to fear from a more competitive SPL as the wordlwide fan base will always ensure they have an edge.

  16. You have to understand that fans of most Scottish football teams aren't that impressed with the quality of the game as it is anyway. Scottish teams outside the Old Firm make no impression on Europe and don't exactly have any 'big name' players. The people who pay to watch these teams go because of a love of football and their clubs - nothing to do with singing about a battle in the 17th century. So, taking away some of the income from these clubs won't make much of a difference to your average punter anwyay.

    However, allowing a side to waltz back in without a suitable punishment WILL turn a large portion of these fans away. This is because the league will - as many already suspected anyway - shown to be stacked heavily in favour of one club. The league will have no sporting integrity.

    What's at stake is more important the SPL, it's Scottish football as a whole. The claim that it would end up on par with the League of Ireland is scaremongering nonsense from the mouths of Traynor, Spiers et al. The Scottish First Division currently has double - yes double - the amount of people attending matches than the League of Ireland.

    Lastly, whose to say the "EBT's will be proven to be legal"? What on earth are you talking about. You're right in that EBTs aren't illegal, as is claimed by their founder, Paul Baxendale-Walker. What he pointed out is that Rangers MUST have done them wrongly, otherwise there would have been no case against them. The other thing is, even if they were legally administered by Rangers, they would still contravene football regulations regarding payments to players. Claims like that of the Rangers fan above illustrate how many of them don't even understand issues their club is facing. Oh but of course, they are the people so all will be ok, they're allowed to cheat everyone else because they're special. In fact, it's not cheating when they do it because it's to maintain the natural order in Scottish football.

    I apologise to the Sheffield United fans for this discussion being brought here. Luckily, you have only been exposed to a minimal amount of the bigotted 'we are the people' hordes. I am not a Celtic fan by the way.

  17. I'd rather be a NewCo than a BigJockKnewCo.....Tell me, what sanctions were imposed on Celtic FC for the abuse of young boys?? Tax evasion is punishable.....covering up paedophilia is unforgivable!!

  18. lol be so funny if all 3 irish clubs where top of spl celtic hibs and dundee hibs(utd} what then all backstabbers thats left who you gonna blame the big bad proddy rangers this\was a religous pogram by the irish clubs and hearts and the rest helped them enjoy the irish tricolours in europe in c.l . and europa flying their flag in our name the s.f.a. be careful what yuo wished for you might just get it lol by the way our taxes are paid in full from normandy to nadir allih

  19. ah well rangers died after all and green mopped up the assets for pennies. now backed by ticketus he is in the process of emptying every gullible new club rangers fans pockets. after all the shysters they still fall for it. ah well they deserve it.

  20. Like many others I first read this blog when Charles Green came to the fore in the early summer of 2012.
    For Rangers fans it didn't make great reading but back then there weren't many options on the table for them. As per warnings about Craig Whyte, the majority of Rangers fans seemed not to care about the real motives of Green. Maybe it was the case that they thought lightening couldn't strike twice and similar to the Whyte takeover felt that the new guy couldn't possibly be as bad as the last guy. It's doubtful that Green will be as bad as Whyte but the term "damned by faint praise" is as good as any in this case.
    In April 2013 the scenario at Rangers is 1 underperforming player has been freed, 1 underperforming player sacked on dubious grounds (both players signed by Mccoist), physio departed and so too the chief scout (friend of Mccoist). Talk of "running a tighter ship" even although it was Green that spent the money in the first place - similarities to the Blades? The key difference is that the Rangers fans are still on side with Green, but I suspect only just. This is where Greens story at Rangers will differ from his time at the Blades. He's already had death threats when he first came in as the opponent to Walter Smith. He's smart enough to understand that Rangers fans are not Blades fans so there's virtually no chance that Green, brash and bold Yorkshire man that he is, will take Rangers rans head on. The deception will have to last a good while longer by finding enemies to the Rangers cause to rail against. Messrs Lawell, Regan and Doncaster will feed the Rangers fans bunker mentality for a while longer and prevent them scrutinizing his actions.

  21. The end is nigh!....NO second coming!

  22. Good job with this post.
    Very well done.