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Harriers Relegated - Four years in the making....
..by Harry Taylor...16-04-16


Aston Villa and Kidderminster Harriers.  Two Midlands footballing giants in their own way, Villa, Premier League stalwarts since its foundation in 1992, and a rich history before then.  Aside from a five-year hiatus in the Football League, the Harriers have been the same in the Conference's various guises over the last thirty-five years.

The fans of both clubs have been let down by poor ownership and management at the board level in the last 3-4 years.  Villa's poor appointments, poor recruitment of players and an unwillingness to invest has led the club out of the Premier League.

As for the Harriers, it's been a slow decline over the last four years, culminating in today.  Just under three years ago, Harriers thumped Stockport County to relegate them to the Conference North and finish second in the table, hopes were high that we would be able to clamber up into the Football League through the playoffs.  Three years later, we've succumbed to the same fate that Stockport did, through the trapdoor and into the league below.  Like the Villa, it's all down to mismanagement at board level, which in turn has permitted poor management in regards to on-the-pitch affairs.

Mark Serrell, who was Harriers Chairman for over two years, allowed inflated budgets to get out of control in an attempt to get to the promised land.  Players on big wages came in, Michael Gash, at the time the league's top scorer, arrived from Cambridge United as did ex-football league players like Exodus Geohaghon.  It was sustainable only by virtue of Ernie Lane, long-time backer of the Harriers Premier Group and owner of a number of rest homes in the local area.

It's worth noting that such was the level that Serrell increased the wage budget, board members resigned during the 2011/12 season.

The club lumbered on from crisis to crisis, arguably the starting point when the cracks became visible to many, coming when Steve Burr was sacked after the FA Cup 3rd round draw against Peterborough United.  Since then it's all been downhill, at some times faster than others.

Serrell left, citing concerns for his family's safety due to social media posts, although that didn't stop him dancing on a seat in the Harriers Arms on the same day, possibly inebriated.  Subsequently Ken Rae took over, although I can't imagine it was something he necessarily was overjoyed with.  The fans were told we were on the straight and narrow, and when Serrell left, he himself said there was "no debt".  Rae said the same.

Yet again however the club weren't being totally honest with the fans.  Whilst the club weren't in debt, we were hemorrhaging money and the Harriers posted losses of £250,000 in a financial year encompassing an FA Cup fourth round appearance, Joe Lolley's sale to Huddersfield, as well as sacking Steve Burr, Andy Thorn and others.

Wage payments were late, the club shed a lot of their experienced players to save money and there was yet more discontent.  Eventually Rae, Gino Ruffinato and John Davies were asked politely to leave the club. Onwards we roared to the next financial crisis under the Chairmanship of Rod Brown, where the club were apparently close to administration when Colin Gordon, previously Football Development Director took over.  And yet, as the club are relegated today, they are still suffering from the three year legacy of Mark Serrell's awful Chairmanship and his decisions.

However, current owner Colin Gordon forgets to recall how he has contributed to the club's decline.  The aforementioned issues are historical but the minute you buy the club, whilst you inherit problems of the past, you take on the responsibility for its future.  Colin plied his trade as a football agent and he could quite easily have put the funds in to stabilise the club this season, keep us up, as was more than possible at Christmas and then overhaul it in the summer, reviewing everything and setting the club up properly for the years ahead.

Just like you don't float a boat by taking away water, you don't keep a club in the Conference by cutting the budget.  There's only so long you can attribute the club's current position to previous administrations and after a while it wears thin and the finger should start being pointed.

I don't think it's reached that point yet; the issues he faces are largely still relics from Serrell's era, however you can't excuse the mistakes he has made.

He got it wrong on the Dave Hockaday appointment, wrong on playing one up-front at home against sides we should be looking to get results from and revels in the idea of playing 'the right way', whether it will get results in the Conference/Conference North or not, yet he appears blameless for this.  It's not entirely his fault but he isn't exempt from blame either.

During the whole of his short tenure as owner his ego has protruded from every interview, comment, quote, and opportunity.  He's claimed that people 'in the game' want him to fail, because he spent so long telling them how to do things and the Harriers is his opportunity to show them he was right.

The positivity from the club about next season seems to be a veneer upon which to encourage fans to invest in season tickets and pump money into the club for next season.

Colin, in his interview with Hereford and Worcester after the Barrow game, admitted he knew the club were down months ago, so next season, when we finish 13th will he then say that he knew we were doomed to mid-table obscurity months ago?  Living in the Manchester area I've spent a few Saturday afternoons this season watching Conference North football and I think there's a huge misguided attitude to the notion that we should 'Piss this tinpot league' in the words of Luton fans years ago.

You can't blame fans for being cynical.  We've had three years of promises by successive administrations about the club's future, and none have been proven to be true.  Now, we have somebody promising the earth in comparison to that, with Colin's idea of a 'University of Football'.

I hope Colin's right, for the sake of the club.  I would revel in being wrong, as Colin does in his idea of 'playing the right way' and I hope that this is the end to the club's three-year decline, however I have my doubts.  I'm open to being won over, but still a long way from it.

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