One hundred and thirty two days after the Kevin Heaney-fronted consortium was named preferred bidder to buy stricken Plymouth Argyle FC, and one month since the deal was "categorically confirmed", Heaney has pulled out. His funding never appeared, and now the circus is in town.
Heaney's withdrawal led to the emergence of five potential bidders, including a group fronted by one of Michael Jackson's former bodyguards. That group's apparent desire to approach 'celebrity psychic' Uri Geller as an 'advisor' will ring alarm bells who remember Geller's bizarre antics at Exeter City.
That group is believed to be in talks with multi-millionaire entrepreneur Terry George – who once appeared on TV's Secret Millionaire – and there's a lot of chatter about other 'public figures' being involved. The name of former England manager Terry Venables is also being bandied about and the by now obligatory 'mystery Middle Eastern investors' are also in the mix.
Argyle Fans' TrustDevon businessman James Brent, though, appears to be closest to completing a deal – and this is the one favoured by the club's fans. Chris Webb of the Argyle Fans' Trust said: "We are focusing all our efforts on getting behind James Brent's bid, because everyone else's involves due diligence.
There's considerable anger over Heaney and the role of the club's administrators because of all the broken promises about funding coming through. Staff and players have gone unpaid for months, key players have left and the club is rooted to the bottom of the league.
Never Never landWriting on the Vital Plymouth fan site, Ian De-Lar said: "For five months lead administrator Brendan Guilfoyle told everyone that the funding was in place because he had seen letters from Heaney's solicitors, needless to say the cash never appeared so was that firm of solicitors based – in Never Never land."
On the prospect of the Geller consortium succeeding, De-Lar says: "OK, we are a basket case – but come on." The group is talking grandly of pulling together high-profile figures to make Plymouth a Premier League power. Such grandiose posturing is sadly not uncommon in cases such as this.
Fans want someone with experience, substance and local knowledge to take over, someone who knows the club has to be consolidated before it can consider moving forward. One comment on the This is Plymouth local news site sums the feelings of many fans up.
"I would not be surprised to hear the administrators have found Father Xmas or Lord Lucan as potential buyers. For God's sake give the club to its supporters and not any old crackpot or debtor that pops up pretending to have money they haven't got."