When Alan Sugar sacked Terry Venables as Tottenham manager in the early 1990s, he said he was made by the Spurs fans to feel like he’d killed Bambi. I can’t say for sure, but I think after this week Panos Pavlakis can certainly empathise with the man who is now known as Lord Sugar.
But time vindicated the then Spurs Chairman. Venables would, save for two oh so nearly successful years heading up the England National Team, drift from club to club for the next decade or so wreaking havoc pretty much wherever he went, utilising his business ‘expertise’ which Sugar stopped him doing at the Lane. Time could also well vindicate Panos Pavlakis and TTA’s decision to dispose of Gary Rowett, even if the Zola era started with a most undeserved defeat on Saturday night.
Even if this does turn out to be a wrong decision though, I find the abuse and vitriol being directed at Panos being most distasteful. Just like the “No Panos, No Party” stuff was OTT in the other sense when Panos could seemingly do no wrong, people (hiding behind the barrier of a computer screen) calling him a snake and making out like he’s some kind of Judas is way out of line. If Gary Rowett had completed a switch to Fulham last winter as he was apparently all set to do, then someone would have been called a Judas but it wouldn’t have been Panos.
Moreover, the job Panos has done does deserve a lot more respect from our fans. He’s taken our club out of the collective grip of a criminal and a CEO who was using our club as his own personal piggy bank, people who were killing this club. He was someone who actually came to the club from the confines of the Carson Yeung camp, but unlike the rest of them in that conclave he was the one person to emerge as someone acting in the club’s best interests and ultimately stood up to Yeung. You look at Coventry City, at Blackpool, at Charlton Athletic – good clubs being decimated by the actions of unscrupulous owners. This club was heading the way of those three not very long ago, and if Panos hadn’t stepped in we would have hurtled there.
He’s now placed the club in the hands of people who, even if it is for commercial purposes, are going to be splashing cash in January on new players to try and get us in the Premier League. Austerity is over, prosperity could be around the corner and he has played a major part in bringing that about.
Additionally, as well as stabilising the club he has made the effort to improve it off the pitch when he had no obligation to do so. According to the BBC Price of Football survey, a day out watching Birmingham City can now be the cheapest in the Championship. As well as making it affordable to watch Blues, under his stewardship there have been efforts to liaise with fan groups on a regular basis to gauge supporter opinion. He didn’t have to instigate either of these things but he did because he recognised the value of maintaining a positive relationship between Boardroom and fans, and that is something that is very much to his credit.
On the pitch, not all that long after he became Chairman he made the decision to get rid of Lee Clark and bring in Rowett. That decision came at a time when we were on our knees; before Rowett came in we were second bottom of the second tier table and had suffered the worst home defeat in the club’s history. Mr Pavlakis was a man who had been the Chairman for less than a year and from what I can gather had no previous experience in football whatsoever, yet he had the wherewithal to bring in Gary Rowett from Burton to stabilise the ship and that decision was spot on. Many people with a ton of experience in running football clubs could have got that decision wrong (and many have) but he, as a relative novice, got it bang right. Thank God he did, because if he’d got it wrong we could have been playing Bury rather than Brighton on Saturday night.
There are also those folk castigating Panos for not providing a running commentary on this week’s events on social media. It may be hard to accept, but when you are in charge of the running of a major football club, or for that matter a major company full stop, then sometimes you can’t provide warts and all explanations as to why every decision is made. There may be legal implications for doing so, there may be other reasons, but it is not always feasible to air your dirty laundry in public. Nor is it even particularly advisable – our fans have had a right old laugh at how Tony Xia has made his ridiculous remarks on Twitter on a regular basis since he took control at the Temple of Doom, yet some of those same fans now want our Chairman to be tweeting his personal thoughts every other minute.
I for one am happy that Panos just continues to do his job in the same understated way he has always done. What a difference his manner has been when compared to Peter Pannu, who on top of being incompetent and bleeding the club dry with his wages, his perks and his “expenses” used to hang around on blogs and abuse and threaten our own fans. Before Pannu, there were Messrs Sullivan and Brady who overall were fantastic for the club but would regularly spout off in the media, sometimes even against people who they were meant to be on the same side as. Panos running his mouth off could do just as much damage as it could do good.
Overall you have to ask, who is the snake? The man who has consistently shown great leadership, great decision making and will no doubt continue to do so as Birmingham City Chairman? Or is it the faceless keyboard warrior who hides behind a pseudonym on Twitter named after one of our legendary strikers, abusing our Chairman and our new manager? Is Panos Pavlakis the snake, or are the snakes the saddoes who sit on messageboards throwing verbal H-Bombs towards Panos online they wouldn’t ever have the guts to do to his face?
The appointment of Gianfranco Zola may work out in the long run, it may not. Only time will tell. But regardless people need to lay off Panos Pavlakis; that man stepped up to the plate for our football club when nobody else could, or would. For that we should always be grateful.
Words by Cecil Parkinson