Simon Jordan: One-on-One

Former Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan answers FourFourTwo readers' questions...

What were your first memories of Palace growing up?
Ed Bates, London
It was when I was 10 and we played Liverpool in the Cup. Seeing Kevin Keegan in the flesh was amazing as he had only existed on television or in Shoot! Then getting promotion in 1979, we played Burnley at home to win the league and there were 52,000 people at Selhurst Park. In later years beating Liverpool in the 1990 FA Cup semi-final, and then coming so close to beating Manchester United in the final were great.

Is it true you were a bit of a handful at school?
Anthony Cross, Morden
Yes, I was actually expelled from one school. Funnily enough, the same school invited me back to do a speech as their most famous old boy. At first I wasn’t sure, but they said if I didn’t they would send my school report to the local newspaper, so I quickly agreed. Quite a few teachers from my day were still there, and they all said, “We always knew you were going to be successful.” What a load of rubbish! I remember one year my school report said: “Simon has set himself a very low standard this year… and failed to achieve it.”

You claim you could have made it as a pro if you had more application. What type of player were you?
Ollie Deakin, Hampshire
I was a left-winger and signed schoolboy forms with Chelsea. The truth is I was quite arrogant, if I didn’t get the ball where I wanted it on the pitch I would stand there shouting, “I wanted it f**king here, not there!” I started to lose my way when I changed schools – I was a bit of a brat, and that held me back. My Dad took me away from Chelsea, he felt he was making all the effort, driving me up to training at Stamford Bridge twice a week. The boys were given expenses, which we were meant to pass on to our parents, but I pocketed it myself. In the end my Dad said I had to make my own way up there, so I gave up.

You made £30 million by the time you were 30-years-old. Could you share some of your money-making secrets?Steve Monk, West Sussex
I actually made a lot more than that. Making money is about how much you are prepared to apply yourself. The first rule is you can’t work for someone else, you have to work for yourself. You have to have a viable product, spend every waking hour maintaining your business and realise obstacles are not things you stop at.

You became chairman of a Football League club at the relatively young age of 32? How intimidating an experience was that?
Bill Young, via e-mail
Intimidating for whom? You mean for the other chairmen having to deal with me? I wasn’t intimidated at all because I had earned my place at the table. But now looking back, I feel like Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption during his parole hearing when he says, “I look back on that boy who murdered that person and don’t even remember him”. I did things based on coming out of an industry where I’d been very successful and thinking I could translate it to another, but you have to respect the peculiarities of football.

I came into the game with my arse up and my head down; f**k agents, f**k the protocol, I was going to do things my way. Why should I have been intimidated by a bunch of people with no money? Remember football has changed, because when I arrived I had lots of money, but now I’m nothing more than a waiter compared to some of these new guys.

Given Steve Coppell’s record at Palace and his subsequent success at Reading do you regret sacking him?
Phil Jenkins, Plymouth

I didn’t sack him, we just didn’t get on very well. His record at Reading is outstanding, but before that he couldn’t get a job. [After Palace] it took him a long time to get back on his feet. He ended up at Brentford, and did well there. When I came to Palace I felt he had a responsibility to help me, not hinder me, and all Steve wanted to do was be divisive and argue. When we were signing players like Neil Ruddock, Harry Redknapp had told me we had to get him on a weight clause in his contract otherwise he would turn up overweight.

It’s one thing me saying, “Listen, you’re f**king fat, lose weight or we’re going to put you on a weight contract”, and it is another thing if a manager says it, but Steve wouldn’t. During pre-season, after I’d spent £5m on players, we got beat 5-1 by Crawley, 4-0 by Reading and 6-0 by Millwall! So I had the temerity to ask Steve “What the f**k is going on?” And he just said, “We don’t get on, do we?” I agreed and we decided to part company.

You infamously stormed into the dressing room after a match against Grimsby to have a go at players. What did you say and what was the reaction?
Jim Barnes, Leyton
That happened in my first season when I was absolutely appalled at their performance. I stormed in and said, “Here’s a newsflash for you f**kers. If you think you’re going to undermine me or the manager you are wrong. Each and every one of you will go before me. If you don’t want to pull your fingers out, form an orderly queue outside my office on Monday morning and you can all f**k off.” We won the next 11 games, but then we went down the toilet and nearly got relegated. I don’t buy in to the dressing room being an inner sanctum, it’s not sacrosanct.

Palace narrowly missed out on signing Tim Cahill from Millwall. Who else have the club missed out on?
Keith Wentworth, via e-mail
A lot of people had looked at Timmy Cahill, but not taken the punt; we did that, agreed a deal, but Everton stepped in, and he went there as they are a bigger club. We also went for Dean Ashton when he was at Crewe, but Dario Gradi was never going to sell me a player, because he doesn’t like me. We were competing with Norwich, and I spoke to them and said, “Let’s stop cutting our own throats, settle on a price and let the player choose.” He chose Norwich. I also agreed a deal for Michael Carrick while he was at West Ham, but he wouldn’t even return Iain Dowie’s calls, but I can understand that because I wouldn’t return Iain Dowie’s calls either.

What’s the most laughable request from a player or agent?
Ian Fenton, Wrexham
Oh, there have been so many, I couldn’t pick one. I’ve actually lost count of the times I’ve said, “Absolutely f**king not!”

What are your favourite memories of your season in the Premier League? Is it still a “bullshit world full of tossers”?
Micah Orr, via e-mail
When I was asked whether I got on with other chairman what I said was, “It’s fair to say that a fair proportion of them are tossers, but I am pretty sure they think the same thing about me”. It’s a bullshit world for certain clubs, it’s not honest and full of integrity, and I don’t respect that. My first observations of the Premier League were a bit crass, I thought the atmosphere in the stadiums was better and so was the crumpet in the boardroom. It was such a waste to get relegated on the final day of the season. We beat Liverpool, Aston Villa and Spurs, and drew with Arsenal and Manchester United, and yet still went down.

�How did you feel when Iain Dowie rocked up at Charlton shortly after quitting Palace to be closer to his family in the north? Was there any part of you that took satisfaction in his subsequent failure there?
Graham Hales, Richmond
It just reaffirmed to me that football is full of unsavoury people that do unsavoury things. I didn’t get any satisfaction from his demise at Charlton, instead I gained a great deal of satisfaction from smashing him to pieces in court.

What was Ron Noades’ reaction after he realised he’d sold Selhurst Park to you? How did that deal work exactly?Adam Watts, via e-mail
I don’t bother myself with Ron Noades’ reactions. The financiers behind my acquisition of Selhurst Park were Rock, who are owned by Paul Kelmsley, a pal of mine. Rather than going to a bank to get funding, I used Paul to fund the purchase of Selhurst Park with me becoming the beneficial owner. I will service the debt, as you would do with any mortgage, and myself and Paul at some stage would possibly have a deal if Palace ever move to carve up residential.

That didn’t work, so we changed it around to me having a 25-year lease on the stadium inside the Landlord and Tenants Act, which gives security, and I have a seven- year option to buy the stadium at a time that suits me. It gives me seven years to buy the stadium or relocate it somewhere else. I got the best of both worlds; the original perspective of ownership of the stadium was correct, but I didn’t want to go into the framework of how I funded it – it wasn’t anyone’s business. I have subsequently spent a year changing the dynamics of that for the betterment of the club.

Have you ever regretted buying Palace?
Dalton McCain, Harrow
Yes, lots of times, for what it has taken away from my life. Then again, at other times I don’t regret it. I suppose I could have spent £30 in a different way and advanced my life more, but I have rebuilt the club and people take us seriously now. Those are things to be proud of and they contrast with the feeling that I have wasted certain parts of my life by spending so much time, energy and money on something that can be vacuous and unrewarding. Then again, you stand in front of 40,000 fans at the Millennium Stadium after winning a play-off final and it’s wonderful. As soon as the door shuts on my era I will be forgotten, but I’ll always have been Palace’s owner.

Why did you publicly announce your intention to sell Palace? Didn’t you risk demotivating the fans and players?
Chris Johnson, Beckenham
It’s important to be honest with people. It’s not me blowing my trumpet, but there are only a few club chairmen you could name, and with the exception of Roman Abramovich and Mohammed Al Fayed I’m probably the most recognisable chairman in the country – with a club that doesn’t even punch its weight. With that in mind, and with my relationship with the fans, I think it’s important to be up front.

I’m not going to allow the fans to be demotivated; I invested £4m in the summer and want success. I’ve told the fans I won’t sell the club irrationally. The only person who’s going to suffer from being honest is me because if you’re a voluntary seller the price comes down. I want to go out on a high, I’m going to make you guys want to miss me, leave you wanting more.

Have you ever been approached to be on Dragon’s Den?
Shaun Harrison, Telford
Yes, for the very first series. My PR agent at the time, Max Clifford, told me about it, and I just wasn’t concentrating properly. I thought, “Hang on, they want me to put my money into ventures that they’re going to make good TV out of? Why don’t they give me the money and I’ll choose the investments?!” Looking back, that wasn’t one of my brightest commercial decisions. It’s a great show, and my pals are on it, Jonesy and Theo. I could’ve done very well as a Dragon.

Who’s the best manager you’ve worked with and why?
Liam Grey, via e-mail
Neil Warnock. I also really liked working with Steve Bruce, but it was short lived. It’s ironic at the time I’m about to leave football I’ve found someone I can work with. Neil doesn’t do as he’s told, he does as he wants, but he does that because he’s capable, and I’m confident in him. Neil wants to be successful with me rather than in spite of me. That is how it should be, but it wasn’t with Dowie and others.

How would you rate you eight years as Palace chairman?
Conor Stevens, Rickmansworth
Ultimately, I’ve failed. When I came in I wanted to establish Palace as the fourth biggest club in London, and financially viable without the need for a benefactor; be a credible club, rebuild links with the community and revive our youth system. I got close, but no cigar. Palace is a better club for my involvement, but now it deserves someone with the same energy and focus as I had when I arrived.

What advice would you give someone buying a club now?
Armando Arezzo, London
Don’t! Why do people buy football clubs? There’s a number of reasons: they want credibility in the community; then there are people who buy sold British assets as they want to be associated with something credible; and some people buy football clubs because they want a big life insurance policy, Chelsea possibly.

After QPR and possibly Charlton now getting taken over by billionaires, do you think you need that sort of backing to succeed even in the Championship?
Sarah Francesco, Northampton
Not at all. Last season Palace, were very close, and I’m not a billionaire by a long chalk, but we had a good squad and we were a penalty away from a play-off final we would’ve won. Look at the top six now: they’re wealthy guys, but they’re not billionaires. I don’t see David Sullivan and David Gold pouring money in to Birmingham, I don’t think they ever have done, they’ve always used the fact they get big attendances, it is a big club, and use the Premier League and parachute payment resources.

You're outspoken about the way football is run. Which organisation or individual would you lock in room 101?
Danny Hill, Manchester
It would be a big room! The whole of the football establishment in this country needs overhauling. Mawhinney at the Football League has done a reasonable job. The problem with football is it’s hypocritical, because all of us argue that the distribution of money should be fairer, but as soon as we get in the Premier League we don’t give a f**k.

I think Brian Barwick’s tenure was poor, I don’t know about Lord Triesman, we’ll have to wait and see. He is talking a good game, I don’t respect him coming out and saying football is £3b in debt. Well, whoop-de-do! What point are you making? Let’s work out that £3b. [Man] United are £750m in debt. Then add up the rest of the top five and compare it to the rest of football. Lastly, I’d also like to lock up the guy at the tribunal who decided John Bostock should be sold to Tottenham for a packet of crisps.

What's your view on the England WAGs debate?
Keith Thornton, via e-mail 
I think the whole WAG culture is a depressing indictment of our society. People who achieve a level of notoriety and are recognised for no deeds of their own are deplorable. I can’t stand reality TV shows and the concept of WAGs. If I was a footballer and my girlfriend was called a WAG I would be horrified. As it happens, the mother of my daughter fell in to that category and I’m constantly trying to push it out, because I really don’t like it. So many girls look up to Coleen McLoughlin, but what has she really done?

Fans used to chant “there’s only one Robbie Savage”. Did you ever consider cutting your hair? Or losing your tan?Alex Hawkins, via e-mail
That came from when I played in a charity game for Palace against Manchester United. I bumped in to Robbie after that and he told me he’d had fans singing, “There’s only one Simon Jordan” to him. Look, I live in Spain, I’m not going to sit in the shade, so I’ll get a tan, and my hair is short now, so it’s a redundant question.

What are the best and worst decisions you’ve made in football?
Ralph Gooding, Manchester
Appointing Iain Dowie in the season we got promoted to the Premier League was obviously a good one, and the decision to appoint Neil Warnock was clearly good too. Another good decision was to write a column for The Observer; it was the first time I had the pen, so I could combat all the shit written about me. My worst decision was probably allowing myself to be portrayed as a pantomime villain, allowing the joke of being orange to continue. I made a joke in the Palace programme, “The future’s bright, the chairman’s orange”. It was a throwaway line, and it hasn’t gone away since and I’d really like it to!

Steve Bruce, Iain Dowie even Ulrika Johnson; some of the people that you’ve taken to court. Do you have a thin skin?
David Hampton, London  
Not at all. I just won’t have liberties taken out of me. You can either be a victim or not. I’m not going to have the mickey taken out of me, any more than I already do.

You’ve never seen eye to eye with Birmingham co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan. What led to this fractious relationship?
Clare Jackson, London
I am 6ft 2in, and they’re both below 5ft 4in, so I’d never see eye to eye with them. I get on OK with them, but I suppose it was my fault because I wrote an article saying I was sick and tired of reading about David Gold trotting out his story about being a poor East End boy made good. We have heard it enough times now David! You were a poor boy, and now you’re sitting on a big pile of porn with loads of money. I said if I had to hear that story again I would impale myself on one of his dildos. So David got upset. They’re not my cup of tea, any more than I’m theirs, but I don’t have a great feeling of irritation towards them.

Who would you prefer to see relegated to the conference: Birmingham or Charlton?
Morgan Alton, Shropshire
I don’t wish for anyone to get relegated, because I know how it feels. People end up where they deserve to be. [Charlton chairman] Richard Murray made a gloating comment to me when we were relegated at the Valley, and I remember replying, “What goes around, comes around”, and here both are now.

Who was to blame for John Bostock’s transfer to Spurs?
Lucy Jackson, Midhurst
The system is to blame. Young players, who are signed by clubs, and are trained through their academies should have to sign their professional contracts with that club. At the moment the system doesn’t provide protection for clubs to develop players and then have the right to sign them. It allows predatory clubs to come in and take players.

We trained Bostock from the age of nine, but the father let us down, the boy let us down, and I suspect certain people within my Academy, that are no longer there and had big influences over the boys as they used to play for Spurs, let us down. So you hope they get slapped at the tribunal, but they let you down too! The whole experience was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me want to get out of football.

If you were handed absolute power of the FA, what would you do on your first day?
Alec Lawrence, Worthing
I’d make swift changes, get rid of the dead wood, get some more professionalism in there, out-source a lot of the decision-making processes, reduce the self-regulation that leads to some perverse decisions. The FA can’t be FIFA and UEFA’s lap-dog.

You’ve provided the funding for the recently-released movie Telstar. Any plans for get involved in football films?
Ryan Madley, Kettering
I didn’t just provide the funding, I made the film. That means rewriting scripts, hiring actors, being on set every day, negotiating every single deal and making things happen. It’s a new direction I want to go in, and no, I won’t being making any about football.

From the January 2009 issue of FourFourTwo.


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