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Diary - Friday 16 March 2012

16 March 2012

For as long your original/regular Diary can remember, I've tried to keep an open mind when it comes to Deadly John (Topcon), and his fitness to run our football club. I've done my best to take his words at face value. It's painfully obvious that the English language isn't his strongest suit. But that alone doesn't mean he's not up to the job. I've attempted to weigh up his actions case by case, rather than let his past mistakes colour my present judgement. By and large I've been a huge critic of the way he's done things at Blundell Park. But on those occasions when I've felt he's got it right, I've made a point of saying so.

But I know I'm never quite going to give him an entirely fair hearing. I can't help it. Just like any other human being, I've got my prejudices. And just like any other compassionate and reasonably intelligent human being, I wouldn't trust a Conservative as far as I could drop-kick one.

When Town's major shareholder, for instance, gives his unequivocal support to a manager and then sacks him 24 hours later, I'll say: surely, by extension, this means we can never again believe a word he says? And I'll tell myself I'm doing my best to base my judgement entirely on logic. But I'll know I might be getting carried away, because Fenty is a Tory, and everything I've ever seen in life only convinces me further that Nye Bevan's famous three-word summary of the Tory party was bang on the money.

So it's only when his actions are held up to scrutiny by some kind of independent authority that I feel I can get the true measure of Fenty's character. And yes, the courts have found against him. As you'll probably have seen by now, the case brought by Boston United for compensation after Shorty and Shouty resigned as Pilgrims managers to join Town has been upheld. The full cost to GTFC is expected to approach £40,000. Boston say they were asking for less than £10,400 to settle out of court. The judge at yesterday's hearing said Deadly John (Topcon) "acted recklessly" in refusing to name an agent said to have been used by GTFC to contact their managerial duo while they were still in post at York Street.

Let's look back at what Fenty told the Grimsby Telegraph on 24 March 2011. Explaining (or not) why his new managers resigned from their jobs at promotion-chasing Boston immediately before their appointment at Blundell Park, he said: "The news had clearly got through to Paul and Rob and they knew of this club's interest by then."

In the Diary of 29 March 2011 I wondered aloud exactly how it was that "the news had clearly got through". Well, now we know for certain. And now we have to ask what sort of a man says "the news had clearly got through", to suggest that this had happened entirely by chance, like a dandelion seed carried on the breeze, when all along he had been using an agent to surreptitiously inform Shorty and Shouty of his interest. It's one thing to break the rules, and another thing again to mislead folk about your having broken them.

Now, of course, there's the argument that £40,000 will have been a price worth paying should Shorty and Shouty take Town back into the Football League. Our leader-in-all-but-name has already said: "We have the funds to pay but that will have to come from another area," and something tells me that won't be the directors' drinks cabinet. But in simple financial terms this would be a sound enough argument. The Mariners' return to the League is an outcome that's still some way off, of course, but if that's what happens in the end then 40 grand will have represented a worthwhile investment.

But there's so much more at issue here than finance. This is a time when a minority of Town fans are embarrassing the decent-minded majority by snivelling to the FA about Darlington's transfer embargo, disturbances at Burton and Alfreton are fresh in the minds of many, and allegations have been made of racist abuse of opposition players at Blundell Park. One of the managers has been found guilty by the FA on a double charge of misconduct, and the club has just been fined for failing to control its players during the recent defeat at Fleetwood. So another consideration is the image of our football club, at this sensitive time, in the eyes of other supporters and of the football authorities.

Perhaps the biggest issue here, though, takes us right back to the start: Deadly John (Topcon)'s fitness to run our football club. Other diaries, on other days, have explored at some length the alternatives to Fenty's plan A of debt and "football fortune", and will probably do so again. So there's little point going through all of those again today. Today we have evidence that Fenty's lack of judgement doesn't exist solely in the imagination of his critics. It's a fact, objectively established in a court of law (as, indeed, it was established by his failed complaint to Ofcom about what he saw as Radio Humberside's unfair coverage of his club). You may or may not share the opinion of Nye Bevan and me that the Tories, as a breed, are "lower than vermin". But now that Fenty's judgement has been tested in court, we're talking facts, not opinions. And if you want to argue that Fenty is made of the right stuff, that leaves you without a leg to stand on.