Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Chairman Sam

Cardiff City Football Club has had eleven different chairmen since I first began supporting the Bluebirds back in March 1975 and it’s fair to say that a few of them revelled in the publicity that came with their position. The likes of Rick Wright and Peter Ridsdale certainly weren’t shy when it came to dealing with the media, but neither of them could hold a candle to Sam Hammam.

As a tiny but persistent minority of City fans are continuing to use internet forums and the local press to call for Hammam’s return, I thought that now would be as a good a time as any to recall some of the Lebanese maverick’s weirdest, funniest and most significant pronouncements during his eleven-year association with the club.

The following quotes have been gathered from a variety of sources, including television and radio interviews, local and national press reports, official Cardiff City publications and statements on the club’s website. I believe they paint a vivid picture of the emotional rollercoaster that was the Hammam era. Hopefully, they will give some serious food for thought to those who believe his return would be a good thing for the Bluebirds:

“I am in a trance, dazed, swept off my feet, gobsmacked and perhaps hypnotized. In short, I am in love with Cardiff City Football Club.” (August 2000)

“I have been in football for twenty two years and have never seen such fanatical support for a team as I have seen in Cardiff. The only fans that seem to compare are possibly those of Newcastle United. They are the Toon Army. My dream is of a Welsh Army. Newcastle is a middle-sized city. We are a whole nation.” (August 2000)

“It is my opinion that Bobby Gould is ideal for what we need. We have to recruit new players within our very limited financial means and Bobby is second to none in that department. I am confident that Bobby will do an outstanding job here. Very importantly he is a hard working, genuine and honest man with very high moral standards.” (August 2000)

“As far as I’m concerned, this is a Welsh thing, a Cymru thing, a Celtic thing – not a Cardiff thing. How else can we dream of competing with Manchester United and Liverpool?” (August 2000)

“Football is always a passion and never a business. Of course, we have to make business decisions like every father and mother does when they run a family, but a family is not a business and Cardiff City Football Club is a family. It is neither a business nor a family football club, but simply a family.” (August 2000)

“Some people tell me that Swansea is the enemy. Swansea, for Pete’s sake! There is nothing wrong with Swansea but is that the extent of our ambition? Swansea will never be a big club and if they are being honest with themselves they will say so. If Swansea fans are Welsh and want to see top class football in Wales, then they should recognise that Cardiff is the only Welsh club with a cat in hell’s chance of making it.” (August 2000)

“Wales is football first and rugby second. We will always respect rugby but they should know that football rules. Football is the biggest game in the world and it’s the biggest game in Wales. If they want to make something of this then so be it. We will face them head on. We’ll play our games on Saturdays. Why should we change for rugby?” (August 2000)

“If members of our family misbehave or do something wrong, we will put up our hands, admit it and deal with it ourselves. As far as possible we don’t want to have to involve the police or the football authorities. We must deal with these things on our own terms. What we won’t accept are unscrupulous media people trying to feed on what has been a club weakness. If they go over the top against our family then we will take them on. Very simply the message is do not mess with the Bluebirds.” (August 2000)

“Bobby Gould and Billy Ayre have been told that unless it is an emergency, I only want to keep or sign players who can hold their own in the top half of the First Division or better. We are very severely restricted with our finances, but this is where Bobby is the master. He will look for people who will be very committed to our family. No big-time Charlies and no hangers-on. Players who do not fight for the family will be sent back to their wives or mothers and they can be big time there instead.” (August 2000)

“This is a huge club and we’re keeping all of our leading players. Even if someone offers silly money for Robert Earnshaw we will not let him go. Don’t ask me to put a transfer value on him because he is priceless.” (November 2000)

“A lot of the financial decisions I am making for the club no sane person would make and furthermore the breakneck speed we are moving at is insane. All the red lights and stop signs are being ignored. I am just doing it and while I am scared, I am not showing any signs of slowing down.” (August 2001)

“Nobody believes there is any limit as to what we can do or how far we can go and they are dragging me into that way of thinking. The danger is that I am not only thinking like that now, but I am acting like that. On the other hand, is this not the beauty of life – to court danger and take a chance when it is worth taking?” (August 2001)

“Reading has a great stadium – for Reading. It’s the sort of stadium we’d like to have for our reserves, youth and women’s teams. As for the Cardiff City first team, I am totally convinced we can be as big as any club in the world, so we must have a stadium to match that situation. Cardiff City are bigger as a club than Barcelona.” (September 2001)

“During the week, David O’Leary said he wanted Leeds United to start and end their FA Cup run in Cardiff. We simply obliged him.” (January 2002)

“On behalf of the club, all its decent fans and the good people of Wales, I would like to express my disgust and shock at the behaviour of some of the mindless morons who are the worst enemies of our club. I am talking about the people who were mainly throwing coins, although there was also a cigarette lighter, a very small glass bottle and many plastic bottles thrown. Incredibly, there was also a shoe. I feel speechless and humiliated.” (January 2002)

“In my twenty five years in football I have never witnessed such an orchestrated and vicious media campaign as the one that Cardiff City currently has to face. We will close ranks and fight together against this evil and wicked campaign. We will not get bitter, we will get better. I feel strong, focussed, in control and ready to face any situation.” (January 2002)

“I am a forgiving man and I hope that one day I can forgive the morons amongst our fans who brought disgrace to the club, and also the cruel, vile people in the media who treated us in a very savage, vicious and biased way.” (January 2002)

“The beauty of life is to have problems. Only the dead have no problems.” (January 2002)

“It is imperative that everyone understands and agrees the biggest enemy to the dream of Cardiff City being a top-notch club are the hooligans. But if you want to beat the hooligans, you don’t go and meet the saints. By showing these hooligans they are human beings and giving them a sense of feeling wanted, I might be able to help. You’ve got to meet them to beat them. We are a civilised nation and we must treat people in a civilised way.” (May 2002)

“There can be no doubt that Wales should have a football club at the top level of the Premiership. That club can only be Cardiff City. This club represents every Welsh man, woman and child.” (December 2002)

“This club belongs as much to Newport and Swansea, to Llanelli and Carmarthen, to St David’s and Aberystwyth, to Holyhead and Rhyl, to Newtown and Brecon, as to Cardiff and the Valleys. Of course, Cardiff is the bedrock of this great Welsh family. We are the capital and we should lead. But while the Valley boys are the throbbing heart of the club, it would be very wrong, selfish and suicidal to assume any sense of superiority over any town, village or city in Wales. First and foremost, we are all Welsh." (December 2002)

“All our present supporters must be big enough to assume a level of responsibility in attracting new Bluebirds from all over the country. They must adopt the motto: ‘each one reach one’. Reach out and be proud about what we are trying to do and don’t ever assume a sense of superiority over new recruits, as they are as important as anyone for our future.” (December 2002)

“Swansea is our Welsh brother. It is wrong to continue the historical stupidity of berating our brothers when they are not in top form. We belong to Swansea and want them to be happy for the success of their club – Cardiff City.” (December 2002)

“England is a great nation which we love and respect. In football, they have adopted us as one of their own. We are very thankful and very lucky to be so. We should always carry the Welsh flag or the St David’s flag with pride everywhere we go, but we should never, ever berate the English. Those who do are doing so because of a sense of inferiority. Those who shout ‘same old English always cheating’ are shaming their country and their club.” (December 2002)

“Any player with the potential to play in the Premiership is remaining with Cardiff City. End of story.” (January 2003)

“This is the beauty of Cardiff. It’s why I came to the club. Cardiff has the potential to be a major power. If we get the new stadium and are doing well in the Premiership, we can be bigger than Celtic and Rangers put together.” (August 2003)

“There are people who think we might sell some of our players to Premiership clubs in the next transfer window. To those losers I ask, how can that make any sense? I view clubs in the middle or bottom half of the Premiership as big enough only to be Cardiff’s nursery clubs.” (October 2003)

“Everyone wants something from time to time. I’m interested in going out with Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. Talk about selling our best players is stupid and infantile. It’s just not going to happen. Clubs may want certain players, but you don’t always get what you want. If I do end up dating Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, then I might think about selling Robert Earnshaw and Danny Gabbidion, but not before.” (December 2003)

“The most important factor to Cardiff City’s future is the new stadium, and next comes the Academy. Our youth development programme is absolutely vital. This Academy will benefit not only Cardiff City but the whole of Wales. Our aim is to produce top class players for this club and the Welsh national team. But those players who are not quite good enough for Cardiff will be able to play for Swansea, Wrexham or teams in the Welsh Premier League.” (December 2003)

“If somebody wants to bet me that Robert Earnshaw or Danny Gabbidon will be sold I will give them odds of 50-1. They can put down any amount up to £1m and I will cover it.” (January 2004)

“Russell Goodway, our political leader, is giving me the stadium for us to perform, not to sell players. Danny Gabbidion and Robert Earnshaw are not normal human beings. They are soldiers whose duty it is to put the club in a place that the people of Wales deserve. To sell the future of Wales is not on. I cannot see any advantage, financial or otherwise, in selling our best players. We don’t need the money, so they stay.” (February 2004)

“Gareth Whalley is the nicest man on earth and an excellent professional, but he will never get another contract like the one he has now at any other club in the land. I challenge him to put in a transfer request. Nobody would pay him even a third of what we pay him. We have brought this upon ourselves, but I’m sick and tired of being treated like a mug. Can you believe Gareth? £50,000 for one game! Who is he, Ronaldo?” (April 2004)

“When I came to the club I totally fell in love with it. I had to build a squad and put the club in the First Division quickly. We did that, but we also overpaid on wages and transfer fees. There was no mistake in overpaying. If we had not done that, we would not have had class players like Graham Kavanagh and Peter Thorne. That was the policy then, but now it’s time to say enough is enough.” (April 2004)

“The bad thing is we have created a culture within the club where money has no value. But overpaying is now done and dusted at Cardiff City. It has to stop. If it doesn’t I will ruin this club. I have to kill the culture of a free-for-all on money. We have lost the respect of the football world and we have to get it back.” (April 2004)

“I will bet anyone that we won’t sell Robert Earnshaw. The bet can be £50 or it can be £100,000. My message to anyone who thinks we will sell Earnie is this – put up or shut up.” (June 2004)

“I pour scorn on suggestions that Robert Earnshaw will be leaving. West Brom is a club I admire. It’s a well-run club and a good club, but in future years it’s the sort of club we are looking at to become one of our nursery clubs. When we get to where we want to be we’ll need a nursery club in the Midlands.” (July 2004)

“Robert Earnshaw will be leaving Cardiff City, but not for ten years at least. We are hell-bent on keeping Earnie and all of our other leading players.” (August 2004)

“Considering our financial situation, something had to give. That’s why we sold Robert Earnshaw to West Brom. We need to strengthen in a number of positions and we now have the funds to do that.” (September 2004)

“Our debt is nowhere near as big as has been suggested. We are robust, strong. Financial institutions have looked at us, agreed we are strong and have backed us. They would not do that if we did not have a strong business and a good plan. Strength is measured by whether financial institutions will lend you money. Where’s the worry?” (November 2004)

“Clearly there is a problem. You don’t sell your captain if there isn’t. But I have not told lies or misled anybody. The fans are mad with me and they should be. I am ultimately responsible. Whether I was duped or conned or given wrong information is neither here nor there. I have promised and been unable to deliver. I sold Robert Earnshaw and Graham Kavanagh, but I have taken massive personal risks for this club.” (March 2005)

“I will not run away and I will not hide. I have made some mistakes, big mistakes, but I have not done anything wrong deliberately. Right now I feel like a man in the ring alone and I have to fight the whole world, but I will do that. We will come through this without going into administration. Some players may have to be sold, but we will come through this. We will not fail. Once the stadium is started our debt will be no more than a cup of tea.” (March 2005)

“The police told me on Friday not to go to Ninian Park, but I went and I talked to the fans outside the ground. I wanted to answer any questions they had for me. If somebody had punched me I would have fallen, but at least I would have fallen among my own people. I really hope the fans rally round me now. I need only to fight those in front of me. I tell you honestly and truly, I am not raping this club.” (March 2005)

“I have let the fans down. It’s a major blow and tough times for the family. I think we might have to take a step or two backwards, and it’s very painful. We don’t want to get in a position to have ten points deducted and have some team of accountants of who will sack three quarters of the staff and sell all the players. It is our duty now to keep strong and stick together.” (March 2005)

“I have promised certain things that I have not been able to deliver at this point in time. I’m personally shattered, but I will continue fighting for this club until I have got them out of this situation. We all have to stand together and accept we might have to do some very painful things in the next few days or weeks.” (March 2005)

“We have worked to budgets that were way off the mark. It wasn’t that we were stupid or cavalier. We felt it was ok to lose maybe £1m or £1.5m a year, but the fact is we have been losing £3m, £4m or £5m. Even then we felt we would be okay with the new stadium on the way, but we were wrong.” (March 2005)

“Peter Ridsdale believes we will achieve everything we are aiming for. Of course, we have to get through our short-term problems and Peter is a man who can help us with that. I know what happened to him at Leeds United. He was close, so close to making that club a massive success. One problem got in his way and things went wrong from there, but he was very, very unlucky. His experience will be invaluable to us.” (March 2005)

“Those who are angry with me are right to feel that way. They love this club and I have made mistakes. I am mad at myself because things have reached this point, but I am not going to point fingers and look for somebody to blame. I am going to fix the problems. That is my way.” (March 2005)

“These problems have knocked me back personally. The stadium delay is a setback, but I am also disappointed with our internal budgeting. Someone who is ignorant of the exact situation, looking in from the outside, would think we have massive financial problems in the long term, but we don’t. The cash problems will disappear in seconds when the new stadium project starts.” (March 2005)

“When I succeed, and I will, I will stay to enjoy the fruits of that success. I will not run away from the problems. I am here for the long haul. I will be here when Cardiff build a new stadium and move forward on the pitch. I am feeling buoyant and strong.” (March 2005)

“There are a million and one reasons for James Collins to stay, and his personality is among them. He has such ability and he is Cardiff through and through. Our young players are the future. They are the lifeblood of Cardiff City.” (June 2005)

“There are termites within the club, the media and more significantly the fans. Some so-called supporters are losers who have no moral fabric. They can’t accept that life and events sometimes knock you back, and that very successful people can and do make mistakes. We aim to be winners and root out the losers, so I say bring all the bastards on! Fighting is our bread and butter. The dream is our soup.” (July 2005)

“Comparisons between Cardiff City and the Cardiff Blues are infantile. There is no serious comparison between the two clubs. The rugby club is a baby compared to Cardiff City. It’s like asking a world boxing champion to fight a two year-old.” (December 2005)

“Swansea should be congratulated on their fantastic achievements. I am personally very happy for them. They are a Welsh club and they are our little brothers.” (April 2006)

“We are trying to get the highest quality players we can within our limited means, but we are working within severe financial restrictions and cannot pay huge fees or salaries. We have to demonstrate to the banks and the council that we can successfully work within this financial programme and I believe we can do that. Players who are good enough for the Championship will have to go because good is not good enough for us now. We are moving towards very good and excellent.” (July 2006)

“You’ve heard of sexy football. Well, we are now playing orgy football. The opposition know they are going to get it, but they don’t know when or from whom.” (October 2006)

“I am devastated, but like any father I was prepared to sacrifice myself for my family. I know I’ve done the right thing and I have the inner satisfaction of doing what is right for my family. I’m keeping my integrity. The club is bigger than any one man. It’s aiming to reach the pinnacle and I had to move on to make that possible.” (October 2006)

“The new people will have the fiscal muscle needed to make the stadium move a much smoother process than if I had stayed. They will also be able to improve the team. I’m jealous of the new owners. They have little risk and in Peter Ridsdale they have an outstanding administrator who is a football man to the core.” (October 2006)

“I’m a man with strong financial clout, but nowhere near enough clout to take Cardiff City forward. This club has proved far too big for one individual to handle. It has outgrown me. While I am shattered by all this, I knew I had to resign for the sake of my Cardiff family.” (October 2006)

“Dave Jones is a complete football manager rather than just a coach. He gets the right blend in the team, knows when to buy and sell players, is superb tactically and an excellent and practical administrator. He’s a real leader.” (October 2006)

“People have asked me about other clubs, but it is as if my wife is dying and you are asking me if I am thinking of going out with another woman. Of course, a married man always has temptations, but I am not in that frame of mind and investing elsewhere seems highly unlikely.” (October 2006)

“I want to stress that I never want the football club back. I want to move on with my life and the decision has been made to leave the United Kingdom for good. I am never coming back. I say again, I just want to get on with my life and be with my family.” (December 2007)

“I am not Langston and I cannot tell it what to do. Langston got fed up with me long ago. I have no power over it.” (December 2007)

“I never want to hurt Cardiff City and never would. I love the club and I love the fans. All I want is a future for Cardiff City Football Club, but I won’t be a part of it. I want the fans to remember me and love me.” (December 2007)

“TG and Sam Hammam working together would be a dream team. It’s something I want with a passion. Cardiff City would come out fighting for the new season, back to its best. I don’t want to be involved on the financial side – that’s where I made my mistakes. But I can put the football back into Cardiff City. I have the contacts needed.” (July 2010)

“I am more than willing to work alongside the Malaysian investors. They should either pay Langston what is owed or let me back onboard. I have football knowledge and can contribute on the football side. The club does not have football leader to steady the ship. We cannot waste time. We should agree now and take our club forward together.” (May 2011)

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