Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas AGM report: Ebeneezer Lowe faces critics but offers no solutions

Rupert Lowe can no longer have any doubts about the depth of the animosity felt towards him after this week. The vitriol and abuse hurled in his direction by fans on Saturday was followed up by yesterday’s rumbustious AGM, in which shareholders made their feelings known at the way state of the club. But has it really achieved anything, and are Saints any closer to finding a path out of their present mess?

The Itchen Suite at St Marys is usually a cheerful place, where a mix of fans, businessmen and clients are finely wined and dined and treated to an afternoon of football. Yesterday, however, it provided the setting for the club’s 2008 AGM and the prevailing mood was one of anger and bitterness. Shareholders gathered for a rare chance to quiz key figures at the club and Rupert Lowe was given the chance to answer many of his biggest critics, including Leon Crouch and Lawrie McMenemy.

AGM: Key Points

· The rancour was evident from the start with cheers greeting the news that Lowe was losing his voice.
· His attribution of the club’s dire financial state to the side’s promotion attempts under Leon Crouch set the pair on a collision course from the start. Crouch argued that the decision taken by Jim Hone and Dave Jones to carry on spending money, relying upon SISU investment that never emerged, was more to blame. He also heaped blame on Lowe for ditching Pearson in favour of the current Dutch set-up (“who are out of their depth and don’t have a clue”) and argued that he had financial plan in place to keep the manager in place.
· Saints legend Lawrie McMenemy heaped scorn on Lowe for his failure as Chairman and pointed out that misguided player decisions during his first tenure, such as Agustin Delgado and Jelle Van Damme proved his own financial ineptitude. Lawrie’s wife, Anne, asked why a painting of the ex-Saints boss was taken down.
· Lowe also failed to rule out player sales in January, indicating that the club’s financial state may necessitate them.
· Leon Crouch asks for a vote of no-confidence in Lowe, of which 85% approve.

The Way Forward

On the terraces and amongst shareholders, the extent of the anger at the state of the club has now been revealed. The shows of hate towards Lowe on Saturday and the incredibly cantankerous AGM have made this clear, but what has this achieved?
Not much would appear to be the answer. The angry exchanges that dominated the AGM were mainly focussed on what had gone on in the past and who was to blame. For what it’s worth, I see Rupert Lowe to blame for our relegation and Leon Crouch (along with others) to blame for the club’s poor finances. But all such acrimony and application of blame serves to achieve is to prove that neither is the right man to take the club forward and out of its present hole.

More pressingly, the side’s dire form on the pitch needs to be addressed but a change of management is extremely unlikely. The lack of money in the club, together with Lowe’s reluctance to admit error, means that, unless a change occurs at boardroom level, the Dutch regime will see out the season. Such a scenario seems like to end in relegation and a further deterioration of the club. With money needed in January, the not-exactly-premium quality of the playing stock at the club is likely to plummet further. Relegation now appears likely.

It pains to write with such a negative outlook, but never has there seemed so little to be positive about. What is needed is outside investment but the chances of such an injection are made even thinner by the current economic outlook. Having witnessed Saturday’s horror show and read about the club’s situation in some depth I fail to see a way forward, a way to turn the situation around. This, truly, will be a long and hard winter for Saints fans and could be the pre-cursor for a very painful May.

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