‘DIFFICULT’ became ‘impossible’ for Chester City manager Jim Harvey this week.
Already faced with the toughest job in professional football, he has been forced to send back two influential loan players, leaving him with a pitifully small squad that lacks the depth to beat the Blue Square Premier drop.
The situation is so bad, City’s unhappy players held crisis talks on Monday with chief executive Bob Gray to air their concerns over the direction the club is going in.
But while the threat of being kicked out of the Football Conference still hangs over Chester, owner Stephen Vaughan’s days at the Deva Stadium could be numbered after reports this week suggested that he is ready to sell the club.
It is against this backdrop that Harvey, who has been told the club cannot afford to extend the loans of Blackburn Rovers centre-back Johnny Flynn and Barnsley winger Michael Coulson, must ready his rock-bottom Blues for Saturday’s visit of Altrincham (3pm).
“The lads have put in some good performances since I arrived, but I would still say the squad, as a whole, is not strong enough,” said the impressive Harvey, who is working under a transfer embargo and without a physio following Ben Holt’s resignation.
“The simple fact is we need to strengthen the squad if we are going to get on a run and collect the points we badly need.
“To lose Johnny and Michael is a massive blow. Johnny put in two or three really solid performances for us and he really helped shore up the defence. Michael, meanwhile, gave us a real threat and with each passing game he was becoming more and more of a handful.
“Their departure has made life very, very difficult for us. It’s not a case of other lads in the squad needing to step up now Johnny and Michael have gone – we are already using everything we’ve got and the lads are doing everything they can.”
City chairman Ian Anderson, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, is understood to be in talks with an unnamed consortium to sell the club.
Eric Whalley, who has been a constant presence at Chester matches this season, is also rumoured to be interested. Any deal with Whalley could only go through, however, once he completes his long drawn-out sale of Accrington Stanley to Dave O’Neill.
Vaughan, having been disqualified from acting as a company director for 11 years following his involvement in an alleged VAT fraud, is required to reduce his 100% shareholding within 21 days of his disqualification order taking effect on November 25.
The Football Association’s Fit and Proper Person Test states that anybody who has been disqualified as a company director cannot hold 30% or more of a club’s shares.
Vaughan must therefore offload 71% of his stake in the Blues by December 16 in order to comply with the FA’s regulations.
And should he allocate the shares to family members or associates in an attempt to retain control of City, the FA is likely to scrutinise heavily all of the club’s dealings to ensure he cannot exercise that influence.
Chester are away to second-placed Stevenage Borough on Tuesday (7.45pm).
More Blues news on page 94.