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I told you so!

Hornchurch Money Runs Out
by Hardy on 05/11/2004

Hornchurch's double glazing fuelled rise up the leagues is over. Hardy looks at what happened.

Hornchurch's money runs out
The news which emerged yesterday from Bridge Avenue that the double glazing fuelled rise up the leagues was over will have surprised no-one outside of the club itself, except maybe in that it happened so soon.

The club, which previously had meandered along happily in the lower reaches of the Isthmian League for years, suddenly found itself awash with cash in 2001 when a local double glazing business took an interest and started pumping in money. The result was a rise through the leagues to the point where the Urchins were leading the Conference South and strong favourites to win it this season with a squad of players that a top Coca-Cola League Two side would have envied.

Along the way the sponsors, originally Bryco, then when that brand went bust, Coldseal and latterly Carthium, the group owners spent outrageous sums on subsidising replica kit, cheap admission prices and free away travel in trying to boost attendances. Despite their best efforts, and with most real football fans looking on in contempt at the plastic nature of the club, crowds only rose to around 800.

It was widely predicted that the gravy train could not go on forever (indeed we predicted it here less than a month ago) and the doubters were proved right when the Carthium Group went bust this week with debts of £7m. Yesterday, after a day of speculation that the club was bust it issued the following statement:

Late last evening, the chairman Gary Calder and manager Garry Hill were informed that there would no longer be the funds available to sustain Hornchurch FC.

Players and staff were issued wage cheques on Tuesday, but these were all stopped.

Gary Calder said, "The party is over and the rollercoaster ride has come to an end. The club will continue playing football and will compete in the FA Trophy and the FA Cup. We are absolutely devastated".

Manager Garry Hill said "I feel the same as each and every person connected with this football club. I am empty inside. The league table doesn't lie, we all thought that we could take the club to the next level. After all it's November and we've only lost one league game. Everyone connected with club, the staff and players have worked hard and we need the supporters to rally round."

Coach Kevin Hales said "It's not just the players and staff, it's their families as well. It's been a really traumatic day and we need 24 hours to clear our heads. Who knows what might happen, but there might be someone who will come forward and ask to take control of the club. We will be taking advice from everybody and we will see which way the ship steers next"

At the present time, Gary Hill
(sic) remains the manager of Hornchurch FC.

What now?
I have to feel sorry for the true supporters of Hornchurch FC who have seen their club hijacked by the ambitions of a few guys who wanted to play real life Panini sticker collecting and are now, no-doubt, left to pick up the pieces. Crowds before the money arrived were regularly under 100 and it is that group of fans that will elicit sympathy.

The sudden demise of Carthium and the club have already started speculation that there was something more sinister going on and more than one observer has been heard muttering "money laundering". A recent Observer article looking into the finances at Bridge Avenue failed to unravel exactly where the money was coming from and mentioned two offshore companies that were involved. 

The majority of the "fans" at Bridge Avenue though had probably not even heard of Hornchurch FC before the last two or three years and now the party is over will either slope off to watch the next big thing, or back to the Hammers or Sky TV's coverage. Some may even turn up at the Daggers. If you do, welcome to a real football club guys.

The new Urchin fans had not made themselves popular by behaving like Harry Enfield's "Loadsa Money" on the message boards and generally larging it about how great it all was at their council owned athletics stadium and will get very little sympathy now. Even yesterday some of their fans were asking if this meant that there would be no free coaches to the FA Cup game at Boston United now, while another was astounded to find out that a train cost £32. Welcome to the real world!

It seems like the players and staff at Bridge Avenue have not been paid wages owed for the last month and that the squad has been given carte-blanche to go and find new clubs. The ridiculous wages that they have been drawing at Hornchurch for playing below their natural level will have branded them mercenaries though and with them all being cup-tied their options may be restricted. Certainly a few will be of interest to John Still who, it is understood, spent much of yesterday on the phone. They must understand real football economics though and be prepared to play for a realistic wage.

One feels real sympathy for Danny Hill (left) who left the Daggers only on the 21st October to rejoin Garry Hill at Bridge Avenue and presumably has never actually been paid a bean for it. If Garry had any kind of inkling that this outcome was on the cards he must be very ashamed of himself this morning for that alone. For the other ex-Daggers that took the Hornchuch wedge there is considerably less sympathy.

Garry Hill (right) is the one man that seems safe out of all this, it is understood that his wages were guaranteed for three years in some kind of trust fund. Whether Garry will want to continue managing a club with no money to spend which will now inevitably slide down the leagues remains to be seen, but I very much doubt it.

Meanwhile the Conference South has been skewed as a competition by Hornchurch's mid-season demise. Those clubs that have played the Urchins already have faced a team that is probably the strongest ever to play at that level of football. Those that play them now will, if the rumours prove true, be playing pretty much a youth team. Gravesend & Northfleet who were knocked out of the FA Cup at Bridge Avenue on Saturday will be fuming that a potential Cup run has been taken from them.

Will the lesson go in this time?
Undoubtedly not!

The next time an investor with "Loadsa Money" turns up at a football club's door with an offer to fund its ambitions they will be welcomed in as always, even though this is a story that almost always ends in tears. Witness Telford United last season.

At Victoria Road, Chairman Dave Andrews (left) has always shaken his head in astonishment at each story of spending at Hornchurch and vowed to keep the Daggers, who are owned by their fans as a members club, run soundly and to budget. Despite that, some over predictions on the projected crowd levels mean that the Daggers are projecting a loss at the end of this season, barring a big income from one of the cups. The difference though was that the problem has been identified, a meeting called and action taken.

We repeatedly told the Urchins it would all end in tears, and now is the time to say it loud and clear....

I TOLD YOU SO!!


 

 

 

 

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