Barry Fry has paid to tribute to the man who saved Peterborough United.
Former club owner Peter Boizot passed away this week prompting eulogies from the most prominent Posh people. There will be minute’s silence in Boizot’s honour before the League One clash with Oxford United tomorrow (Decmber 8).
Boizot rescued Posh from the brink of collapse in 1997 and enjoyed a dance on the Wembley turf in May 2000 after watching his side win the Division Three play-off final against Darlington. He reduced his commitments to Posh in 2003 after losing a large part of his personal fortune backing his hometown club.
Fry, now the club’s director of football, was running Posh as well as managing the first team and fearing the worst when meeting Boizot by chance at a meeting called to raise funds for the club’s youth team.
“The ownership situation at the club was complicated back then, but the bottom line was we were in serious financial trouble,” Fry recalled. “We were close to going bust.
“We were doing our best and we desperately wanted to keep the youth team going so we had a public meeting to try and raise money for them.
“Peter was there and after the meeting he was stood at the bar when I bumped into him. He asked me if I knew who he was, I said ‘no’, so he invited me to a breakfast meeting at the Great Northern Hotel the enxt day as he wanted to help the youngsters.
“I went expecting it to last five minutes, but it lasted two hours 40 minutes as he quizzed me on the club and at the end of it he wrote a cheque for £10k there and then. From that first meeting I could see he just wanted to help the people of Peterborough in any way he could. He was particularly keen to help young people.
“I wanted to thank him properly so I invited him to a dinner with all the directors and he decided during that meeting that he wanted to buy the club despite having no interest in football.
“He just loved his home city and he could see how important the football club was to the Peterborough public.
“It’s no exaggeration to say he saved the club. I was so happy that his time as owner involved a major success because he deserved that. By the time he stepped down he’d lost around £9 million, but he never complained.
“At Wembley in 2000 we won that play-off final and Peter was in the Royal Box. When we went up to get our medals I told Peter he should join us on the pitch. He didn’t need asking twice. He was a big fella, but in one step he climbed out of the box and then raced down onto the pitch where he had a bit of a dance. It was a great moment for him and one he thoroughly deserved.
“We had our disagreements, but he was a complete gentlemen throughout our relationship. He was a hero of mine for what he did for the club.
“He was a very different chairman to any others I’ve known. One day our chairman at the time announced he’d secured a shirt sponsorship deal for £200k. The rest of the board were busy saying ‘well done’, but Peter banged his fist on the table and said he didn’t want a sponsor on the shirts he just wanted ‘the Posh’ emblazoned on the front. I’d never known an owner of a club like ours turn such a sum of money down, but he was more interested in promoting his city and his club than a random company.
“Another of Peter’s passions was art and he decided he wanted to sponsor an exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. He told me he was writing a letter to the other 91 Football League clubs asking for a donation and I told him not to be so daft as no-one would even reply.
“A few days later I was called into see him and Peter was smiling and waving a letter around in his hand. ‘You told me I wouldn’t get a reply,’ he said. ‘But I did’.
“He showed me it and it read ‘Dear, Peter, if I had any spare money I would be investing it in my football club. Now ‘eff off.’ It was signed Ken Bates, chairman of Chelsea.
“Peter ended up sponsoring the exhibition himself and me and the playing squad had to attend the opening night. Peter asked me to make a speech which was interesting as I knew nothing about art or the Academy.
“On another day Peter told me the ‘cheeky’ manager of Stamford had asked him to sponsor that club’s shirts. I suggested he told them politely to get lost, but it was too late as he’d written a cheque there and then for £5k. Stamford’s cheeky manager was Steve Evans.
“That’s what Peter was like. He was one of a kind and he deserves all the tributes. I know the Posh fans and the club will give him a good send off.”