Paul Thompson meets the Supporters Club

The Express and Star reports on Thompson and fellow "Gang of Three" members at the Throstle Club

Big Money Investment

Paul Thompson has admitted for the first time that he is finding it difficult to convince Albion fans he is the man to lead the club into the millennium. The Yorkshire computer tycoon declared at a meeting at the main branch of the Albion Supporters Club last night: "I'm being labelled a rebel and a Johnny-come-lately - but nothing could be further from the truth." Thompson defended his decision to launch a summer boardroom battle and insisted he was not out to cause trouble. "It's very difficult to win votes because I am being labelled a rebel," he said. "The fact is I called the EGM because I want the club to move forward. It's a pity it has come to this but it's not about one man's personal mission. It's about doing what is best for the club." However, Thompson said he had been heartened by the response of some fans. "People have come up to me since all this began and said that even if I lose the debate it will have done the club some good," he added. "It will mean that the present board won't any longer be in a position to sit back." Thompson was supported by former vice-chairman Clive Stapleton and long-serving ex-director Barry Hurst as he outlined to shareholders a bright new future if they voted for him in his battle to oust chairman-of-five-years Tony Hale at an extraordinary general meeting on July 8.

"Albion are currently going nowhere. I'm a supporter of three-and-a-half-years and I have seen the vast majority of games," he continued. "The club is far bigger than Tony Hale. We do want to win this vote but to conduct ourselves fairly. It's very easy to put the facts to one side and whatever I say I will be labelled as a Johnny-come-lately. But at least I can look you in the eye and say I did my best even if you retain Mr Hale as chairman."

Thompson, who is taking legal action against the man he is attempting to remove after comments by the chairman on radio, revealed he had unsuccessfully tried to persuade influential shareholder Graham Waldron to lead the club into the 21st century if Hale was dethroned. As things stood, Thompson added, he would seriously consider naming himself as chairman if successful in six days time. "When I called the EGM I didn't expect people to encourage me to be chairman," he added. "I talked to Mr Waldron and asked if he would be interested but as things have developed I've been encouraged to do the job."

Thompson informed shareholders that he planned to raise ?10m to redevelop the Rainbow Stand and strengthen the team "not necessarily in that order". He said he was prepared to pump some of his own wealth into the club - Thompson is a multi-millionaire having developed computer group Sanderson into an internationally renowned company - in addition to introducing a string of money-raising initiatives. "I hate failure but I do feel as though I have failed these last three years," said Thompson. "I have been unable to convince the whole of the board to do the thing we believe to be in the best interests of the club."

Thompson told shareholders he wanted to take a leaf out of the book of Bradford chairman Geoffrey Richmond who has led the unfashionable Yorkshire club to the Premiership big time. If he was successful next week, he added, he wanted to attract two powerful figures to the board although he would consider offering an olive branch to current directors Joe Brandrick and Don Colston. He stressed the importance of a healthy relationship between chairman, chief executive and manager after admitting he did not always see eye to eye with former boss Ray Harford. And Thompson, who became so disillusioned he almost quit the club THREE times before eventually resigning in February, distanced himself from Albion's poor record of recent years in the transfer market. "My involvement in transfer deals usually came in the form of an early evening call on my mobile. I was told the fee and the package involved and asked whether I was in favour of the deal being done. Most of the time I said no. We want better players and better standards. If we follow Geoffrey Richmond's example we will end up in a better League position."

Hurst, who recently quit the board after six years, told the forum: "When Mr Thompson joined the board I saw it as a great opportunity for the club. I felt he had good ideas and a fresh pair of eyes looking at a staid situation. It was disappointing Mr Hale was not able to pick up and develop any of them. He did not welcome imaginative input and reacted to people who wanted to do things differently as though they were a threat to the club."

Stapleton, a life-long Albion fan, pleaded with shareholders to make a change for the better next Thursday. "We need new leadership. I owe it to my club to make a change."

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