SIMON JORDAN: In a modern game of nation states and billionaires, there should always be a place for people like Blue Bill
- The late Bill Kenwright showed grace and warmth during his reign at Everton
- Kenwright made mistakes but was determined to achieve success for his club
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
There are football club owners and then there are people like Bill Kenwright.
Football deserves what it gets at times but I’m not sure it deserves people of the decency, integrity and commitment of William Kenwright CBE. He embodied the expression ‘winners are dreamers who never give up’.
There is a school of thought that the strange, curious world of football has moved on and there is no place in a modern game populated by nation states and billionaires for people like Bill.
But how can there not be? If we’re lucky, there will be another like him. A Bill Kenwright with a slightly harder heart and a few more noughts on his bank balance would perhaps be the ideal owner, and if you end up with someone like that you may just be the luckiest club in the world.
His aim was always the same: to achieve things for Everton. I’m not sure that’s the case with many current owners who seem more concerned with achieving things for themselves through the club they own rather than for the club and supporters.
The late Everton chairman Bill Kenwright always aimed to achieve things for his football club
Everton supporters have paid tribute to Kenwright following his death aged 78 last month
Mail Sport’s Simon Jordan has reflected on his dealings with Kenwright within football
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I read Oliver Holt’s wonderfully written eulogy this week and it took me back to my first trip to Goodison Park with Crystal Palace. I was 32, a young owner and those more established in the game viewed me with disdain or as an object of curiosity. I got the high-hat from lots of them. Some of that treatment was of my own making, I admit, but the attitude was very much, ‘You don’t know anything, you’re just a kid with a few quid and a lot to say for yourself’.
But Bill was different. He made time for me and always made me feel welcome. He offered valuable advice about patience, making decisions for the right reasons and ensuring the fans and the club were always central to my thinking. Now some of it, I admit, I thought ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’ but I always remembered his kindness and generosity and we developed a relationship from it.
There was a warmth about Bill, an inclusivity. He wasn’t challenged by sharing information or giving advice even though we were all in the battle of trying to win things for our clubs. That trip to Goodison ended in a Palace win on penalties and he was the first to say, ‘Well done, son’. Most chairmen would have been far less gracious.
He used to laugh at me because I was very forthright. I was dynamic and aggressive — or assertive, as I prefer to say — and he always had a wry smile on his face when we came across one another. A look as if to say, ‘What mischief have you been getting into now?’
At Premier League meetings, he was always a sensible, balanced voice. David Dein, Freddy Shepherd, David Gill and a variety of others were at my first one and were talking about a bonus for Richard Scudamore.
Gill announced they had approved a £1million bonus and I said: ‘How f*****g much? What is he getting a bonus for, doing his job?’ Dein looked at me in surprise, Shepherd kicked me under the table, but Bill took a different approach, leaned over and said, ‘Hey son, he’s just got us a billion pounds, I think we can pay him a £1m bonus’.
I didn’t go to many Premier League meetings — Palace’s relegation made sure of that — but from my experience, Bill was always grown up and constructive. He was never front and centre, wasn’t a tub-thumper or someone who needed to be heard. More often than not, he brought people together rather than divided them.
During negotiations to take Andy Johnson from Palace to Everton, I made a comment in the press about their £7m bid a year earlier and asking if they were trying to buy his trainers. Just a bit of fun but when it came to selling Johnson, I pushed Bill because I had higher bids from Bolton and Wigan.
Kenwright’s approach helped Everton secure Andy Johnson for a lower fee from Crystal Palace
Kenwright’s legacy should not be poisoned by the association to owner Farhad Moshiri, left,
The appointment of Rafa Benitez was among the mistakes during his final years at Everton
In the end we did a deal for about £9m despite those bigger offers. That was because of Bill. The smoothness, goodwill, integrity and decency of the transaction — and twisting his arm to pay it upfront and give us a pre-season friendly — meant I was comfortable with foregoing that money because I knew Johnson was going to a good club, manager and chairman.
Bill wasn’t perfect and, like everybody, he made mistakes. There will be the view that he was the one that sold the vision and value of Everton to Farhad Moshiri.
When I asked Bill about the doomed flight of ludicrous fancy to employ Rafa Benitez and why he didn’t stop it, he responded, ‘You try telling a billionaire what to do’. Like his fabulous theatre production Blood Brothers there is an element of pathos, tragedy and choices made from circumstances that haunted his last years at Everton.
Yet, as the wheels came off, his only thoughts were for the fans. In a text conversation during the height of supporter outrage, when Bill and other board members were advised not to attend games, I told him it was time to go but he replied: ‘All that matters is the club, which means the supporters, and I have to sort it out for that reason.’
He remained committed with the best of intentions. Everton always came first. Bill was vilified and brick-batted by supporters for his association with Moshiri but despite that, he considered them in everything he did.
The globalisation of sport and the increasingly impossible task of keeping up with the top clubs led him to try to find the best opportunity for Everton.
It is preposterous to accuse him of being responsible for the circumstances they find themselves in with Moshiri clearly having crashed and burned and the club facing the uncertainty of new owners in 777 Capital.
The blame lies fairly and squarely with Moshiri’s decision-making, and Bill’s legacy should not be poisoned by association.
Everton are undoubtedly much poorer without him. What football — and Everton — deserve is a few more Blue Bills, as he always signed off his texts to me, and perhaps fewer Moshiris and 777 Capitals. Or maybe that’s me just being a dreamer.
Premier League clubs honoured Kenwright, who displayed warmth and grace while at Everton
Everton are poorer without Kenwright and clubs could do with more owners like him
Sheffield Wednesday chief throws his toys out of the pram
It might be time for the EFL to intervene with Sheffield Wednesday regarding their embarrassing owner Dejphon Chansiri and his behaviour and remind him that ‘fit and proper’ people are supposed to run football clubs.
Having thrown his toys out of the pram and vowed not to put another penny in, he’s now saying he can’t put any more money into Wednesday and made the ridiculous proclamation about the necessity for fans to help with cash flow. Remind me which club charges the most for season tickets in the Championship? Oh yes, it’s Wednesday.
He’s spent £160m on a club that has been languishing outside the Premier League for 24 years and doesn’t like being judged on his record. Now he’s suggesting the very same fans he has gone to war with crowdfund so he can pay the Inland Revenue and avoid a transfer embargo. It’s embarrassing and immature.
All owners have had times when you wonder why you’re doing it and why you have to listen to criticism while you’re doing your brains in economically. But that’s the price on the ticket. You bought into the background noise and fans having scant tolerance for you. To be behaving the way he is and constantly remonstrating with fans who have supported that club in droves even when there’s been nothing to watch is utterly ridiculous.
Sometimes as an owner you have to grit your teeth, take the criticism on the chin and get on with the job. Don’t like the heat? Don’t get in the kitchen.
Sheffield Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri has asked fans to pay off a £2million debt
Chansiri has gone to war with supporters after his ownership of the club has been criticised
Rooney’s start confirms doubts over his Birmingham appointment
Wayne Rooney was a fantastic footballer and I hope he goes on to become a fantastic manager. It is very early days but after three defeats out of three, my doubts about his move to Birmingham City appear well-founded. I would be happy to eat my words but perhaps employing managers with 27 per cent win records is not a blueprint for success.
Wayne Rooney has overseen three consecutive defeats since taking charge of Birmingham
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