On February 9 2006, at the Yorkcitysouth social evening, Josh Easby gave a revealing insight into his times as editor of "Arthur Bottom" and his year as a City director. To get the full story, you needed to be there, or you could make an offer for "The Josh Easby Diary", available from all good bookshops.
Josh spoke eloquently about his involvement with City, namely his many years publishing his daily "There's Only One Arthur Bottom" email newsletter and his single year as a City director.
Born in York, he attended Archbishop Holgate school and recalled a contemporary, Brian Pollard starring in the school's rugby union side. He fondly remembers many 0-0 draws before his move to New Zealand in 1970 which coincided with the start of City's rise to the old Division 2. His return to England in 1999 was swiftly followed by City's drop back into the basement division. During his stay in New Zealand, he made several trips back to England, usually coinciding with City games, but didn't see a City win during those 29 years.
Throughout his journalistic career in New Zealand, and in the pre internet days, he managed to keep in touch with City and English football. Also, he would accompany British clubs on their down under tours, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Charlton brothers and Glenn Hoddle, and more often than not rubbing them up the wrong way.
It has its funny and rewarding moments as well. Josh fondly remembers the lady who subscribed to find out about City to allow her to chat up a City supporter she fancied. It worked well for a year until Josh got an email entitled, "He's broken my heart", romance over, subscription ended. Or the case of the City supporter who ate all the pies at Preston. Within minutes of sending that newsletter, Josh received a reply from the guy offering his sincerest apologies to the fellow supporter who had queued for 25 minutes only to see the guy in front buy the last 5 pies. Apparently, he thought all his friends would like another pie so he bought them all to avoid disappointing them.
At the time of the 2006 meeting, Josh had made contact with the daughter of Arthur Bottom, who was living a quiet, reclusive lifestyle in Chesterfield and suffering from arthritis. Later, Josh arranged a birthday card for Arthur's 80th birthday. Arthur was very proud that his name was being used for Josh's daily newsletter.
Josh's Arthur involvement lead directly to his City directorship. He answered the phone late one afternoon and was asked to come up to York for a breakfast meeting the next day. Out of the house at 5:30, he was having his breakfast with Douglas Craig at 8:30. Craig's "Why do you do Arthur?" was answered with "Why are you City chairman?" They hit it off and Josh became a sounding board for what the fans were thinking. Marketing workshops, York City official webmaster and board directorship swiftly followed.
The marketing workshop formally introduced to City several supporters who were later to play key roles in The Supporters Trust. Josh's work on the web site generated an additional income stream for City.
Josh's first board meeting was an eye opener. Agenda item number one concerned the replacement of a single light floodlight pylon light bulb. Do it immediately or wait until several needed replacing and let the economies of scale kick in to reduce total expenditure. The last agenda item at every meeting was "Football Matters", last because it was the one that all the board members were most passionate about.
After Craig stood down as chairman, Josh stayed on the board under John Batchelor until his position became untenable. Despite repeated requests, Batchelor failed to produce any proper accounts or cash flow forecasts. Unable to perform his statutory duty as a director to ensure the company was being run as a solvent concern, Josh resigned. 2 months later, City went into administration.
Josh will tell you the difference between Craig and Batchelor was that Craig did exactly as he promised and Batchelor didn't. Despite Craig's public reputation as a dictator, board meetings under him were open and a forum for reasoned debate and consensus agreement. Under Batchelor, meetings were quite different.
Craig, now computer literature thanks to Josh, and an Arthur subscriber was quizzing Josh recently on the merits of Emmanual Panther.
I'm afraid you had to be at the meeting to hear all the inside stories, but for tasters:
Later in 2006, Josh returned down under and is now living in New Zealand.
- Adie Shaw’s first rule for strikers, "don’t lose possession on the half way line", and if you do, your defenders are still on the edge of the penalty area and straight back under pressure, attackers must hold up the ball and allow the defence to move out so relieving the pressure, a la Lee Nogan.
- Michael Procter so enjoyed learning and playing alongside Lee Nogan that he begged Sunderland to extend his loan spell with City.
- As part of our special relationship with Sunderland, there was some commitment for us to also take on loan (and play) some players that Sunderland wanted us to take, rather than us just cherry picking their best young players.
- How a former manager generated a significant transfer tribunal fee by promoting a youth team player to the first team just before the player left City.
- A steward’s phone call to the police cost City £1,500, as a fan was arrested which involves extra police cost. The police’s decision to upgrade the fixture in the next season meant even more additional costs.
- One of Josh’s personal highlights of his year as a director was the away game at Leyton Orient. The team coach came off the A1 and picked Josh up from his home in a sleepy Hertfordshire village for the short drive to Brisbane Road. He met all types of fellow directors but described Barry Hearn as a "diamond geezer".
- In his year as a director, he used up over half of his annual leave allowance to attend to City business, drove 40,000 miles and had City fans spit through an open window into his car as he drove into the City car park. He felt every defeat was his own fault.
- Out of necessity, fans only know a fraction of what is happening. Next time you shout for a young starlet to be in the team or for the recall of your favourite, just consider the youngster may not have trained for the last 2 weeks because he was homesick and ran home to mum in the north east or the star player who is maybe going through a messy divorce. Mentally, neither is ready to play, nor can the manager ever disclose the full reasons for his decision.
- As ever, the life and times of Jon Parkin prompted healthy debate and allowed Josh to expand on his theory that the most important part of the season is pre season, and that once a season is underway, its got its own momentum and when things go wrong, its very hard to change for the better as games come around so quickly. Parkin’s last season with City being ruined by being sent off pre season and missing the first 3 games, which meant that the youngster, barely out of his teens and still growing struggled to reach full fitness.
- Josh has much admiration for the current board, as they run a tight ship with very few rumours coming out of the dressing room.
- Josh doesn’t subscribe to the theory that Craig deliberately ran down the club, saying the main reason for its financial demise was being caught out badly by Bosman and the almost-overnight collapse of the transfer market. Once that happened, the cost structure of the club became untenable.
- One of Josh’s biggest regrets is that in a question and answer session conducted via Arthur, Douglas Craig stated that selling up was an option - making that statement more than 2 years before he put the club up for sale. Josh feels if the supporters had acted immediately, then much of the unpleasantness over the sale and the Batchelor year could have been avoided. Josh got the impression Craig would have rather sold to the fans than Batchelor if the supporters had established a trust sooner and made a serious bid.
- Looking forward, Josh can see more clubs run by Supporters Trusts, giving way to a more level playing field at our level and where clubs who want success, can achieve it.
Josh started his "There's Only One Arthur Bottom" newsletter in July 1997 and it is still published nearly every day. It peaked at around 1,100 subscribers during the Save Our City campaign and today is received in over 30 countries by over 800 subscribers. Given the time difference, he actually finds publishing Arthur easier down under.
TOOAB has provided a rallying point for hundreds of City supporters since 1997 where Josh's professional experience in media and communications has proved to be invaluable.