What a difference a month makes.
On 1st July, we had 16 players. All those offered new contracts had signed on – including Dom Gape after leaving us hanging for an eternity – Alex Pattison had arrived as our first signing of the summer, and there was hope that a couple of loanees and another free agent or two might come in. But we still had about as much meat on the bones as a three-quarters-devoured rack of ribs. Even with the aid of the brilliant 500 Club, what kind of a squad were we likely to be able to assemble? Gareth was still here, but, in hindsight, all his staying really did was turn ‘We’re fucked’ into ‘We’ve got a fighting chance of scraping survival’. But little did we know what was going on behind the scenes.
31 days ago, out of the gloom – it was there, we were just trying our best to suppress it – came a glimmer of light. The Trust announced that they’d agreed a deal in principle with Rob Couhig to become a minority shareholder.
A lawyer and businessman with existing sporting interests in his native New Orleans, the 70-year-old was already somewhat known in English football after an unsuccessful takeover attempt at Yeovil in May. That raised questions, just as it had done with Bill Luby and Jim Collis before – particularly about why an American entrepreneur was interested in little old Wycombe Wanderers. Were fans right to be apprehensive about a shift back towards outside ownership? Yes. The Hayes saga had given us all a scare. Should we have still gone in with as open a mind as possible? Yes – and we’re seeing just why.
There’s a brilliant interview with Pete Couhig – Rob’s nephew who’s come on board with his financial consulting expertise – in the latest episode of Bean With The Shot (from 2:53 below). In it, he describes how they came to the club largely because they had full confidence in those on the footballing side of things; they would leave them to it and take care of the business. Four-and-a-bit weeks, EIGHT more signings, an improved ticketing system, a repaired big screen, burgers that are designed to be edible, and a new beer tent later (I’ve probably missed some things), the clouds have cleared and the ‘Couhig effect’ is shining brightly upon us.
Wycombe Wanderers Football Club needs outside investment; the Trust have made that abundantly clear. As I’ve said before, there are those who’ll remain stubbornly opposed to such a concept, no matter what benefits and opportunities it brings, but hopefully they’ll be few and far between come the big vote, so as not to have any bearing on the outcome and scupper a possibly great future for the club. We are a League club and it must stay that way. Barring things going horribly pear-shaped in the meantime, it has to be ‘yes’ to a majority share.
We shouldn’t get carried away by the, let’s be honest, seriously impressive initial impact, but who are we to assume the worst? Leave the new guys open to criticism, sure – no one in any position of significance is above it if and when it’s necessary – but how anybody could not be even slightly convinced of their worth by now is beyond me. It might be hard to keep your feet on the ground, but you’re well within your rights to let your head skim the clouds. In spite of our recent successes, we Blues fans haven’t had it all that easy of late. Obviously we’re in a far, far better position than numerous others in the Football League, but [best Megan Rapinoe voice] WE DESERVE THIS.
Who’d have thought even a few weeks ago that supporters would have been heralding the start of the new campaign with giddily positive forum posts such as this? Who’d have thought we’d be able to stick seven new names on the wage bill? Who’d have thought we’d be vehemently opposing the perennial pre-season naysayers with more justification than we’ve had since goodness knows when? Half the reason the feel-good factor enveloping the place feels so good is because it was so unexpected.
This is just the dawn’s early light of the Couhig era – which, all being well, it will officially become in the not-too-distant future. There’s a way to go yet, but imagine what the twilight’s last gleaming could look like.
Anyway, for now, on the pitch, let’s get this show on the road!