On arrival at the Deva Stadium it felt like a dark grey cloud had been lifted away. Smiles as wide as the two Mersey tunnels beamed off the few back room staff still employed by the club. Escorted into the boardroom by an administrator, I was greeted by the new man in command of our beloved club. “Hi, pleased to meet you,” echoed within those four walls from the scouse accent of Stephen Vaughan.
The Liverpool based boxing promoter who has strong links with many big names in sport is no stranger to running a football club. Vaughan explained: “I’ve been the chairman of Barrow Football Club where although it was considered a small non-league club, it was quite a big outfit so it’s nothing new to me. I just hope that I can produce the goods and the general public will get behind me.”
But, with the vast amounts of money in the game and the opportunity to invest in huge clubs, such as the likes of Manchester United, what really attracts somebody to a club like Chester City? For Vaughan it’s the eagerness to continue being involved in all the dramas of day to day life around a football club: “I’ve been looking at getting back involved in football in a major way. I wanted to take something on to have the day to day running of. I looked at Chester City over the past two years and having previously failed to purchase the club from Morrisons years ago, obviously I went into Barrow. Since leaving Barrow I’ve been desperate to get back into the day to day epics of running a football club.”
“At Chester City, I’ve heard a lot of people saying it was bought, and at one stage with Phil Davies it looked as if the club had gone. But, we just monitored the situation. We basically smoke screened Terry Smith by putting an offer in for Wayne Brown on behalf of Droylesden Football Club, which I was a director of because a business associate partner David Pace is the owner. Once we got around the table with Terry Smith we told him we weren’t there for Brown, we were there for the club. And here we are today, we own it.”
Although it took years for him to get hold of the club after his first failed attempt, Vaughan was somewhat surprised at how fast a deal was done: “We met on Monday and Tuesday last week and we had the club by the Friday. There was some hard negotiating to do and to be fair to him he needed to offload the club. He told me the current credit situation and there’s a lot of debtors out there, but the main obstacles in the way as we speak today are in the day to day running of the club. We’ve only been in here fourteen hours and a serious credit situation needed to be alleviated immediately.” Vaughan continued: “The place needs tidying up, we’re going to look at bringing some builders in and start painting the place, making it look clean and tidy. We’ll get a good cleaning of the interiors and everything else and we’ll get it looking like a proper company, a proper club and hopefully by next week we’ll have cleared quite a bit of the credit.”
Whilst many hope for a more stable future for our club, one cannot underestimate the huge task ahead of our new ownership team, especially if they are to bring any success back to the club. Vaughan outlined his plans: “The first job is talking to the players. I’m going to Scarborough tomorrow, I’m on the coach and I’ll be informing every player that they’re all off the transfer list. If they wish to go on the transfer list, they’ll have to come in and put they’re own personal request in but what we’re telling them is from tomorrow you’re not dealing with the ‘yank’, you’re dealing with ourselves and then we’re looking at everybody one by one in a room at Scarborough and we’ll be telling them these are our plans, if you want to be part of it prove yourself to me and hopefully we’ll go away and get a result on Tuesday. Then on Saturday maybe we’ll get the lads behind us rather than pulling in different directions at the moment. We’ve already spoken to a number of players that we’ve wanted to bring in. But obviously there are lads under contract, ones who are not sure if they want to go or play for Chester City. Once we identify who wants out and who wants to be with us, we’ll filter out and groom in. Give us a week and I think we’ll know where we are going.”
But as well as the on the field activities, our new chairman is well aware of the task ahead if he is to win over the highly dented confidence of the clubs hard core supporter base. “We’re planning a meet the chairman night for one day next week. That’s to be announced in the next few days and that’ll be in the club bar. Any supporter who wants to ask a question will have the opportunity to come and speak to me. My overall plan here is to get Chester City back into the Football League but we’ll take one step at a time and the first step is taking the players off the transfer list and finding out who wants to be with us. Secondly we’ll bring players in who can do a job for us and thirdly we need to stabilise the financial difficulties the club has had. I’m not going to say we’re going to do all this in six months time but we’ll certainly make a lot of effort to alleviate the problems as soon as possible.”