Continuing the story of Barry Fry’s 20 years at Peterborough United....
Somehow Posh had muddled through some very murky financial waters, but the club’s fortunes (and those of Fry) were about to change thanks to a pretty dire TV documentary.
BIG RON MANAGER
Fry recalled: “Early in 2006, I took a call from Ron Atkinson. He’d been filming a documentary at Swindon, but it wasn’t working out so he wanted to switch the project to Posh.
“It was to be a ‘warts and all’ documentary, nothing could be hidden, but it was worth £450k which was obviously very tempting as we were still struggling to survive financially.
“I didn’t agree straight away though. I called all the staff together, including the players, and told them we were going to have a film crew following us 24 hours a day.
“If they didn’t want to do it I would have said ‘no’ to Ron. The entire staff had been brilliant with me through some tough times and if they hadn’t felt comfortable with what I was proposing I would have ditched the plan.
“I wasn’t surprised when the staff gave me their backing so the documentary went ahead.
“It didn’t always show the club in a good light, but Ron did some great things for us by getting people like comedian Stan Boardman to perform at the club. We made tidy bits of money from things like that, but it was still a struggle.
“Ron had bought us time, but nothing else. I still owned no assets at the club and the future still looked bleak.
“Little did I know at the time that a programme called ‘Big Ron Manager’ would transform the club’s and my fortunes”
“Darragh tells a great story about how he first became interested in buying Posh.
“He was in Spain working and his father was with him.
“His dad was watching ‘Big Ron Manager’ and falling about laughing at what a mess the club was in.
“He called Darragh into the room and said ‘look at this idiot trying to run a football club. He needs some help. You should get in touch.’
“Anyway he did get in touch and he sent his representatives over. I told him how horrendous the situation at the club was, but he didn’t actually believe me at first.
“The next day Darragh emailed me offering £250k for the club. My first reaction was to check the date and wonder if it was April Fool’s Day.
“I emailed him back saying just that and sent him my demands, one of which was paying back Alf Hand, a long-time director and someone who had helped keep the club going, the £400k loan he had in the club.
“That was an un-negotiable demand as far as I was concerned and I didn’t really expect to hear anything back.
“It was quiet for three to four weeks, but then Darragh decided to fly over. I was looking out of the office window when I saw three black limousines pull up.
“I wondered what the hell I’d let myself in for. It looked like we were getting involved with the Mafia.
“This larger than life character bounded into the club so I showed him round. He wasn’t really interested in the boardroom, the dressing rooms etc, but when he walked out onto the pitch his character changed.
“He went straight onto the phone to his missus and told her ‘this is the dog’s b*******’. We went to the training ground which was at Woodlands back then and he wanted to buy that as well.
“I realised we had a chance with this guy. Obviously he was a proper businessman unlike me and wanted to do due diligence.
“I told him it would cost him £250k which he wouldn’t get back if he didn’t go ahead. I was just trying to secure another month’s wages if I’m honest.
“We started chatting and I was immediately impressed with how knowledgeable Darragh was about football. We spoke for ages and while we were talking our accountant popped his head round the door to say £250k had been deposited into the club’s account and did I know where it had come from?
“Darragh had proved he was being serious by paying that money in so quickly. I now had a warm feeling about the bloke.
“He paid another £84k to complete due diligence. Amazingly he didn’t think the club was in as bad shape as I’d made out.
“He decided he wanted to buy the club and he was happy to give Alf his money. I didn’t get all I had put into the club back, but getting anything was a bonus.
“I was just happy to have the chance to get out and be able to relax for the first time in a decade, but then Darragh floored me with his own demand.
“He told me he was only buying the club if I stayed on as director of football with a remit to control transfers in and out of the club.
“I accepted instantly. We didn’t even discuss a salary.
“One of Darragh’s first acts as owner was to agree to take part in a fans’ meeting and he insisted I went with him. I said he didn’t want me there as those fans hated me, but we went and he told those fans if they were witholding support becaue of my presence then they could stay away.
“So far so good, but this being Posh other problems were to surface . . . ”
COLIN HILL (again)
“When Colin found out the club had been sold he decided he wanted a slice of the action.
“He wanted £10k a week rent on the ground. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He was my mate. I was best man at his wedding.
“Worse than that was to happen when me, Darragh, Colin and his business partner Keith Cousins met at the Dorchester in London. Colin suddenly announced that Darragh should cut me out of any deal and buy the club direct from him. The club had been split into two with me running the playing side and Colin owning the rest of it through a holding company.
“Colin wanted £15 million, but Darragh just stood up threw a wad of cash on the table to pay for tea and walked out.
“Darragh could have shafted me and Alf, but instead refused to have anything to do with Colin again. After that I would have done anything for Darragh, I still would.
“Not owning the ground was a great frustration for us. In the end Peterborough City Council bought the ground and we signed a lease to rent it from then. That deal was not great for the club and it’s still biting us hard now.”
The tale continues online at www.peterbroughtoday.co.uk later today (June 3) when Fry gets a rookie manager on the phone with his chairman.