In the stands, the pubs around the ground and on social media the growing discontent from Town fans is hard to avoid. Online, in particular, there are seemingly more and more fans voicing their displeasure over the club’s ownership on a daily basis.
People do not seem to like Phil Hodgkinson, and those people are choosing to voice their dislike of Town’s chairman in a pretty forthright manner. There have been claims that he doesn’t have the money required to run the club, leading to his unofficial nickname of Potless Phil.
Some have claimed that he is merely pretending to be a Huddersfield Town supporter and that his grand master plan is to strip the club of its assets and ride off into the sunset with his ill-gotten gains. That last claim has been sent to me as a DM on Twitter countless times, and once via Whatsapp from some Holmesian reader who discovered my mobile number on Facebook.
I myself, have even slung the odd accusatory arrow of discontent in Hodgkinson’s direction, most notably when I reacted to the last-minute departure of Aaron Mooy. I admit, that on that occasion (there have been others), that my emotions got the better of me.
I slipped into the tempting world of scapegoating and eagerly pinned all of the blame on Phil Hodgkinson, the biggest liar the world has ever known or indeed will know.
In the cold light of day, I feel a little bit silly about that. TerrierBlog is a fan run account and what makes us unique is that we react as fans, viscerally, emotionally and at times stupidly.
One facet of being a football fan is the ability to change your mind, renege on your once firmly held views and commit an about-turn that would make even Boris Johnson blush.
The best example of that I can conjure is my own actions at Goodison Park when we were destroyed 5-1 by Everton in the League Cup. I could not hide my hatred for Jermaine Beckford that night. I gave him both barrels, called him every name under the sun and waved my arm at him in a way that suggested he had a penchant for self-love.
Then, a few years later I sang his name and leaped up and down like a maniac when he scored vital goals for the club in the relegation escape of 2013. Whilst I’m not going to start chanting Phil Hodgkinson’s name at the next home game, I am going to attempt to dispel some of the lies and myths in circulation at the moment.
Instead of lambasting him for everything wrong with the club, I’m going to take a look at the criticism of him in recent months and see if it is justified. If you would do me the pleasure, read on and indulge my brief moment of introspection.
The biggest criticism by far of Phil Hodgkinson is that he is skint. The new chairman does not have a proverbial pot to urinate in, hence his new forename Potless. Every single one of us knows that he is hard-up and simply does not have the money needed to fund the club.
It’s an inalienable fact, one of life’s well-known pearls of wisdom, something that children will learn by the age of 5 in the decades to come. We all take it as read that Phil is skint, but have we actually stopped for a moment to question where this knowledge comes from? No, but we will do now.
Our knowledge of Phil’s financial affairs has come from a faceless person on the internet. Someone with a witty username on Down At The Mac logged into the site just after Hodgkinson’s unveiling and told us all that he is Potless.
This user quantified his assertion with a screengrab from the Companies House website that showed Hodgkinson’s company - Pure Business Group - to not have been very profitable last year.
I’ll admit that I did the same when I heard the news about Phil Hodgkinson. I raced over to the Companies House website and sighed an enormous sigh of sadness when I saw Pure Business Group’s meager profits, albeit vastly superior to my own yearly profits.
However, I came to the conclusion that, as a person that knows sod all about finances and company profits that I wasn’t properly equipped to come to any conclusions from one year’s profit figures.
There were some on Down At The Mac that shared my opinion and rubbished the cries of Potless from the original poster. But by then, it was already too late. The cat was out of the bag, and the news that Phil was broke had spread around the town.
Friends began to text friends, supporters spoke to one another in pubs and before you knew it, we all believed Phil to be broke. On top of that, further rumours began to surface. Layer upon layer of lies was added to the Potless Phil story.
All of a sudden we discovered that he had taken out a massive loan to buy the club. That he still owed Dean a sizeable sum and that in order to pay off our former chairman and the brokers at Wonga, he had to sell players.
In the words of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has had a chance to put its pants on.”
Whether it was an attempt to straighten the record, or merely just to introduce himself to the fans, Phil staged his first supporters Q&A over the summer. He assuaged concerns over his personal wealth and generally came across well.
However, there was one phrase that would come back to bite him and inadvertently strengthen the Potless Phil rumours. To massively paraphrase the chairman, he posited that the club would operate on a one-in, one-out policy once certain bad eggs had been shipped out.
When Aaron Mooy left for Brighton, he was replaced by Trevoh Chalobah, but this didn’t satisfy certain fans. Chalobah was a loan signing and is quite simply not as good at football as Aaron Mooy.
Then Rajiv Van La Parra left, at a time when we were unable to sign a permanent replacement and the cries grew louder. “HE LIED,” they all said in unison, on the forums, on Twitter, and in the stands.
If ever evidence were needed then here it was, plain to see for everyone and anyone involved with the club. Phil had lied to us all during the Q&A, and the only logical reason for that lie was his need to pay off the interest on the loan he took out to purchase the club.
The problem with this argument is that it doesn’t factor in something called human fallibility, a condition that afflicts all of us. In his eagerness to please fans, it is most likely that Phil made a promise that he, unfortunately, could not keep.
There’s no great shame in that, we all do it. We all promise to be better, to take out the bins every Thursday for the rest of our lives and so on. Yet we all fail at some point, mostly for reasons beyond our control.
Had everything gone to plan it is likely that Phil would have kept his promise to the fans and found replacements for all outgoing players. However, things clearly didn’t go to plan. Bids for players came in late, unsettling them and forcing the club’s hands.
In the case of Rajiv Van La Parra, perhaps his situation at the club had become untenable and taking the hit on selling him became the lesser of two evils.
Occam’s Razor is a philosophical principle that supposes there are two explanations for everything. The principle also suggests that the explanation that requires the least speculation is, more often than not, the correct one.
I would say that human fallibility, wantaway players and the harsh reality of football business are the explanations that require the least speculation. Whereas to suggest that Phil has deliberately lied to finance a cloak-and-dagger loan agreement is an explanation that depends heavily on massive amounts of speculation.
Finally, the last criticism of Phil Hodgkinson that we are going to challenge is the situation regarding Jan Siewert. Critics of the chairman have been quick to label him a disgrace for either; his treatment of Siewert in sacking him so early; or his decision not to sack him earlier.
It seems that Phil was caught between a rock and a hard place regardless of what decision he took.
Let me add my own explanation to this situation, the one that I believe to be the most likely to have occurred. I believe that;
Jan Siewert was identified by the previous regime, and as such, the decision to hire him as manager was mainly their call. As an outsider, Phil bowed to their superior knowledge and trusted them with the appointment, after all, their previous one had worked out pretty well hadn’t it?
As prospective chairman, Phil probably did have a say, but he most likely had as much sway as Dean Hoyle did when Stan Ternent was chosen as the man to succeed Andy Ritchie at Huddersfield Town.
With Siewert as the man in charge when Phil’s ownership was ratified by the EFL over the summer, he probably sought to back his manager. He funded a training camp trip to Austria, sanctioned a couple of signings and placed his faith in Siewert on the record.
Then just a few games into the season he looked out from the director's box and saw a team bereft of ideas and seemingly at odds with their manager. He also watched on as Town were taught a footballing lesson by Lincoln City in the League Cup.
Finally, enough was enough and he took the bold move to sack Jan Siewert and embark upon a managerial hunt of his own. That was, in my opinion, a brave move. The easiest thing to have done was to let Siewert carry on until a point where there was patently no other option than to sack him.
To do it early on took guts and a certain amount of self-belief, and will hopefully be a fantastic decision when we look back on it a year's time. Yes, he could have sacked Siewert earlier, but were we really to know that his season would start as disastrously as it did?
Would it not have been disrespectful to Dean Hoyle and the previous regime who had identified and hired Siewert to sack him at the end of the last season? Would Phil have been lambasted by fans and certain sections of the media for having done so?
As we said back in the Blog when Jan was sacked, let’s judge Phil on how his new manager does rather than his decision to sack a manager that we all wanted to leave anyway.
Anyway, to cut this rambling piece short before it develops into a novel, let me say one thing.
Give Phil Hodgkinson a break and have some patience. He has the best interests of the club at heart and all claims to the contrary have come from random people on the internet with little to no idea of what’s actually happening within the club.
Phil is just a normal person like me and you, and he is currently dealing with an extraordinary set of circumstances, many of which were caused by the previous regime, not him. There’s also no evidence that he is Potless, and would Dean Hoyle have sold the club to him if he had have been?
To me, the most obvious explanation is that Phil Hodgkinson has more than enough money available to him that allowed him to purchase Town, and write off money invested in Southport.
And, that he is doing his best in trying times and we have no real reason to be getting on his back and directed so much personal abuse his way.