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Calum Melville on Aberdeen - Sunday Herald


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Calum Melville has no regrets about eschewing Aberdeen as he bids to make Dundee a force in the land

 

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    * Calum Melville believes his money is likely to count more at Dundee than it would at Aberdeen

 

Bryan Cooney

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Published on 21 Feb 2010

 

IT’S Monday afternoon and con­sequently 30 hours before Aberdeen FC receive their annual visitation from the society of Scottish Cup party poopers.

 

Calum Melville’s animation is palpable.

 

Melville is going to the game at Pittodrie, occupying not so much his primary role as the sugar daddy of Dundee but his supplementary one as a lifelong supporter of “the Dandiesâ€. And there’s no disguising the passion in him. He reveals that when he was taken to the stadium for the first time, it appeared so vast he believed he was in the Maracana in Rio. “The memory burned in my head.â€

 

Also embedded in the psyche of the oil tycoon are his heroes Willie Miller and Gordon Strachan, and that 1980 day when Aberdeen first won the Premier League under Alex Ferguson. Melville, at 10 years of age, ran on to the Easter Road pitch and dug up a tuft of grass in order to celebrate a 5-0 victory over Hibs

 

“I then travelled [a lot] in my teens. You knew you would win at Ibrox, and not expect to lose at Parkhead, at least come away with a draw. There were some scary moments, of course; a few times our buses were stoned. But those were good days. I was a fanatic. I just thought that this [winning] was normal. Then Souness came and spoiled it all.â€

 

    The kind of funds you’d need to deal with Aberdeen are completely different. Tenfold

 

Melville, a proud and vocal conscript of the Red Army, demonstrates that the old soldier in him isn’t dead. “If Aberdeen get through, I’d expect a full house because they have got by far the best away fans in the country … by a country mile. Absolutely fantastic. I would debate that with any Rangers and Celtic fans.

 

“It’s just not the numbers; it’s how vociferous they are. I think playing away from home for Aberdeen must be great, because they [the fans] just never stop. You know, I think it’ll be really tough for Dundee to turn them [the team] over again. I think they’re getting better. I don’t think he [Mark McGhee] is everyone’s cup of tea, but it appears he’s getting to grips with it …â€

 

In the event, of course, Dundee are not obliged to essay a turnover. The day after our conversation, Raith Rovers arrive in the Granite City and their performance suggests that Melville may be to sporting perspicacity what Lady Gaga is to coiffure conformity. McGhee’s grip on affairs is loosened once again by his capricious employees.

 

But let’s be fair to this newcomer to the Dens Park boardroom. Back in the Bridge of Don, where Melville and his elder brother Stuart head the oil offshore operation of Cosalt, he hasn’t the benefit of hindsight and cannot imagine that the forces of darkness are intent on another invasion or that Aberdeen’s season is about to erupt into fury, phlegm and fiasco.

 

I must admit hereabouts, however, there is an overwhelming temptation in me to log on to the confused.com website. The Aberdeen fan resident within me is experiencing outrage, very probably unfair and illogical outrage. But sod it: logic is scarcely applicable when you support a football club. Why is a man of such a powerfully one-dimensional persuasion bankrolling a team from another county? Shouldn’t he be injecting some of his wealth – the brothers are reported to be worth £100 million – into a patient in urgent need of fiscal stimulus, if not a spell attached to a life support machine?

 

He once admitted that involvement with a hometown team inevitably ends in problems with discom­bobulated fans, but surely this cannot be the only excuse. So, much to his discomfort – normally he doesn’t encourage such discussion because he feels it then becomes a stick with which to beat chairman Stewart Milne and his cohorts around the head – I probe into one of Scottish football’s most anomalous situations.

 

If, hypothetically, Milne developed a brainstorm, forsook his apparent fix­ation with land development and walked away from Pittodrie, would Melville step into the breach? The answer comes back in a split second. Now, the fan, the dreamer has disappeared. You are looking into the rather wild eyes of a pragmatist. “Absolutely not! Unequivocally no. The kind of funds you’d need to deal with Aberdeen compared with Dundee are completely different. Tenfold …â€

 

So an investor would need to be Sir Ian Wood (an Aberdeen oil baron who is close to being a billionaire) to take the club to the promised land? “Not so much that, but you’d need to decide how much you were willing to put in. I think it would take between 10 and 20 times what it would take to get Dundee into a place in the SPL. But to get to where? To become the third force? For me, the appeal of Dundee was that you could take them into the SPL and hopefully get them into that mid-table every season. It’s a different scenario altogether.â€

 

There is a suggestion, emanating from certain quarters, that overtures were made to bring Melville to Pittodrie but that Milne didn’t want to know him. There is a long pause, which cynics might interpret as being significant. Then the 41-year-old snorts and delivers another unambiguous answer which, for some reason, he wants to remain off the record.

 

We’ll return shortly to this particular axis. Melville’s industry cannot be questioned. He and his brother joined their father 19 years ago and formed an offshore company, borrowing £30,000 from the Scottish Development Agency and working all the hours their bodies and minds could tolerate.

 

He sees himself as a very private person but, in contrast, while some factions of the Aberdeen business community don’t know him at all, others who do look upon him as a brash young man who became extremely lucky. They say he believes he is Donald Trump.

 

You put this to him and he just smiles, rather icily, it must be said. People are entitled to their opinion, he answers. But if he is brash, there is also material evidence of his success. A dark green Bentley dominates the car park. There are homes in Aberdeen and indeed the best avenue in Gleneagles. In fact, he lives but a mansion house away from the aforementioned Milne in that Perthshire paradise.

 

“I don’t think many people know me that well in Aberdeen, because I don’t tend to go out. Susan [his wife of 18 years] and I sometimes go to London for a weekend, take in a show and go for dinner. But we never go out in Aberdeen. We’ve got three children, two of them are birth children, as Susan likes to call them, and we like to spend a lot of time with them and the dogs. The little one, Louise, we adopted her from China. She’s six-and-a-half. She’s great, the brightest of our children. That says it all.â€

 

And what about the canines? Melville looks slightly abashed. “We got one eight months ago… a Bichon Frise. In essence, if it were a human, it would be a male hairdresser. It’s not particularly what I could call a man’s dog. Just to top it off, my wife bought a Maltese, which can literally sit in the palm of your hand. I don’t think it would even make it to be a male hairdresser. It would end up washing hair or something.â€

 

So, is this toy dog-lover Melville friendly with Milne? “Erm, we’re not … I don’t know him very well. I mean, he’s there in Gleneagles, there’s another home in the middle, and then there’s us, so yeah, we’re close to him down there, but I’ve only met him a few times. I wouldn’t say we’re not friendly, but I wouldn’t say we were friends, either. He seems a perfectly charming and decent guy.â€

 

And he’s full of admiration for him? “Yeah, I’m full of admiration for anyone who’s done such a phenomenal job with the Stewart Milne group. As for the football, I think he has done a great job at Pittodrie. I don’t think he needs any help. Listen, any fan who is realistic knows he’s doing a great job. And the ones who aren’t realistic, well, their opinions don’t really matter.â€

 

Well, I guess that puts me in my place. But while I nevertheless still take issue on the merits of Milne’s leadership, it’s almost impossible to criticise Melville’s at Dens Park. Not unless, of course, you happen to be called Jocky Scott, or the Scottish Football Association.

 

The ruling body recently had cause to reprimand Melville for allegedly telling a BBC Scotland radio reporter that he wished to sign Dundee United’s Scott Robertson. “It’s probably better that I don’t make any comment,†he says, before adding: “I would hardly call it getting your knuckles rapped. It was more like being ravished by a dead sheep!â€

 

That brand of irreverence is not replicated when Melville addresses the matter of his manager. It is rumoured that there was initial friction between he and the veteran Scott. If such a thing were true, it’s now been transferred (unlike Robertson) into the past, according to Melville.

 

“I’ve recommended about a hundred players to Jocky. Oh, God, aye, I sent him a text about a player yesterday, in fact, which he hasn’t responded to. Which probably tells you what he thinks of the player. Ach, particularly from my point of view, Jocky understands that I’m there to help, there to give as much support as I can. So he takes it the way it’s intended now.â€

 

The conclusion drawn is that he (Scott) didn’t always take it that way? “I think, like any new guy, he was wondering: ‘What does all this mean for me?’ But the fact is he and I get on like a house on fire. Which is good. I like his sense of humour; I like the way he conducts himself. He’s so knowledgeable and the players absolutely love him.â€

 

And the Dundee fans, for their very important part, seem to have warmed to the man from 66 miles and umpteen radar traps up the A90; the man who buys their dreams. His money has meant that hitherto impecunious Dundee have been at liberty to spend a quarter of a million pounds in bringing Gary Harkins and Leigh Griffiths to Tayside.

 

But if the supporters admire the power of the Melville pocket, what about the distaff side of his life? What does his wife think of the hand-outs? “She asked me: ‘Is it going to stop me buying designer handbags?’ The answer to that was ‘no’. So it was all good.â€

 

The man seated across the boardroom table from me was once expelled from two senior schools for what he describes as “playful high jinksâ€. “You know, they thought I wouldn‘t amount to a hill of beans,†he says.

 

Now he amounts to a mountain range of cash and obviously enjoys the benefits of being a football director. “It’s the simple things,†he says. “To be able to go and stand right at the side of the pitch two or three minutes before kick-off gives me a thrill. When you’re a fan, you just don’t get to do that. Also, interacting with the players, and listening to Jocky.â€

 

OK, he’s calling the fiscal shots, but does he know his place and does he really listen? “It always amuses me. We’ve come to a mutual understanding that I’m never going to be a tactical genius. For me, it’s interesting to give my opinion, and then he’ll explain why it’s rubbish. When he explains, you sort of understand.â€

 

The man who is an Aberdeen fan but a Dundee director escorts me from the premises, reminding me that I should contribute to the charity box at the door. He is a tireless and relentless worker for good causes. Three hundred thousand pounds has gone to the Elizabeth Montgomerie Foundation. And he’s attempting to raise £50,000 for CHAS (Children’s Hospice Association Scotland) by running the Chicago Marathon on October 10. He’s never run a marathon before and he’s out of condition, but he insists he will finish the course. “I’m hoping all the Dundee United fans will sponsor me in the view that I might collapse of a heart attack and die,†he smiles. “So it must be worth it in the vain hope that it happens.â€

 

The smile evaporates. “The strength and character of the children and their families is unbelievable. It’s easy to write a cheque. Any fool can do that. [Giving to charity] is not only the easiest thing in the world to do, it’s the right thing to do.â€

 

Now that is undoubtedly so. Only not, apparently, to a would-be charity called Aberdeen FC.

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Wonder what the answer was that he wanted kept of the record? I think a lot of rubbish talked too, the money being spent at Dundee would be massive for AFC in players terms but Aberdeen of the pitch with the debt/stadium issue is not one somebody like him is wanting involved in. Can't believe he still attends our games, interesting.

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I have to ask you why would it in milnes interest to be subtly obstructive?

 

Potentially the worst decision he ever made in his business life was investing in Aberdeen football club and you honestly believe he is not looking for a way out that wont see him lynched for the man whose leaving caused the liquidation of AFC?

 

There was a boy on yourcall who said the only reason he wasnt leaving was because he wanted the land pittodrie is on. Seemingly this was 'common knowledge' in the aberdeen area. To me that is common knowledge of the complete fuckwit who thinks all Aberdeens problems will be solved by some guy just throwing money into the club.

No successful UK businessman is going to touch a scottish premier club so its either eastern europe, the yanks or some local twat who wins the euromillions

Perhaps im in the minority but the last thing I want is some 'lotto millionaire' who has spent their entire life sat behind a desk or driving an HGV deciding they want to be chairmen of the club. I also dont fancy the prospect of a romanov or Glazer family turning up to toss us around like a toy that can be discarded at will.

 

So what is the answer? Well I dont know but instead of everyone here just bitching about how milne has to go why not get down to the AFC supporters trust and say 'right boys im here to help you find our saviour. What can I do?'

Start actively looking for the man or woman who will take milnes shares and also have the actual sense to run a business instead of 'lets sign him for £15k a week, and him and him and him and well win the champions league in 4years blach fucking blah.

Tell ya what, get down to David murray and see if he knows someone who is willing to just give away £100million of their company cash to stop the bank shutting down the club and at the same time kill their own business.

Once you've got someone, set up a meeting down at pittodrie with your clear business plan and set us free from this apparent ogre.

 

Even rangers cant find some old hun millionaire to buy them out of the shit they are in.

Yanks are doing their best to shaft liverpool and Man united (only Villas guy seems to have any sense)

West Ham are now onto their 3rd owner in the last 10 years but are financially fucked

Man city and chelsea will just vanish should abramovich and the arabs decide 'im not playing anymore'

Ashley coudnt find anyone to buy newcastle so is their equivalent of milne

Portsmouth anyone?

 

far as Im aware the only 'big' club in the UK that isnt one fuck up from disaster is Arsenal but ill be insterested to see what would happen to them if Emirates Airlines suddenly went bust.

 

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I have to ask you why would it in milnes interest to be subtly obstructive?

 

Potentially the worst decision he ever made in his business life was investing in Aberdeen football club and you honestly believe he is not looking for a way out that wont see him lynched for the man whose leaving caused the liquidation of AFC?

 

There was a boy on yourcall who said the only reason he wasnt leaving was because he wanted the land pittodrie is on. Seemingly this was 'common knowledge' in the aberdeen area. To me that is common knowledge of the complete fuckwit who thinks all Aberdeens problems will be solved by some guy just throwing money into the club.

No successful UK businessman is going to touch a scottish premier club so its either eastern europe, the yanks or some local twat who wins the euromillions

Perhaps im in the minority but the last thing I want is some 'lotto millionaire' who has spent their entire life sat behind a desk or driving an HGV deciding they want to be chairmen of the club. I also dont fancy the prospect of a romanov or Glazer family turning up to toss us around like a toy that can be discarded at will.

 

So what is the answer? Well I dont know but instead of everyone here just bitching about how milne has to go why not get down to the AFC supporters trust and say 'right boys im here to help you find our saviour. What can I do?'

Start actively looking for the man or woman who will take milnes shares and also have the actual sense to run a business instead of 'lets sign him for £15k a week, and him and him and him and well win the champions league in 4years blach fucking blah.

Tell ya what, get down to David murray and see if he knows someone who is willing to just give away £100million of their company cash to stop the bank shutting down the club and at the same time kill their own business.

Once you've got someone, set up a meeting down at pittodrie with your clear business plan and set us free from this apparent ogre.

 

Even rangers cant find some old hun millionaire to buy them out of the shit they are in.

Yanks are doing their best to shaft liverpool and Man united (only Villas guy seems to have any sense)

West Ham are now onto their 3rd owner in the last 10 years but are financially fucked

Man city and chelsea will just vanish should abramovich and the arabs decide 'im not playing anymore'

Ashley coudnt find anyone to buy newcastle so is their equivalent of milne

Portsmouth anyone?

 

far as Im aware the only 'big' club in the UK that isnt one fuck up from disaster is Arsenal but ill be insterested to see what would happen to them if Emirates Airlines suddenly went bust.

 

Unfortunately, this seems spot on.

 

With a £10m debt and a potentially disasterous stadium change factored into the equation, no-one in their right mind would invest in AFC. I can't see anything other than a barren 5-10 years of 'just keeping afloat' until both issues are fully addressed by Milne et al.

 

Ashley at Newcastle serves as a bleak lesson to all that any change seen as removing a seemingly incompetent local owner is not necessarily going to be a good one long term.

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Would a possible buy out by the fans work out? Dont really like the idea to be honest, but worth throwing out there.  If we say who stays and goes, With some of the boo-boys, it would be like a flamin merry-go round.

 

Nope.

 

Not even close to having enough fans for that to work.

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I have to ask you why would it in milnes interest to be subtly obstructive?

 

Potentially the worst decision he ever made in his business life was investing in Aberdeen football club and you honestly believe he is not looking for a way out that wont see him lynched for the man whose leaving caused the liquidation of AFC?

 

There was a boy on yourcall who said the only reason he wasnt leaving was because he wanted the land pittodrie is on. Seemingly this was 'common knowledge' in the aberdeen area. To me that is common knowledge of the complete fuckwit who thinks all Aberdeens problems will be solved by some guy just throwing money into the club.

No successful UK businessman is going to touch a scottish premier club so its either eastern europe, the yanks or some local twat who wins the euromillions

Perhaps im in the minority but the last thing I want is some 'lotto millionaire' who has spent their entire life sat behind a desk or driving an HGV deciding they want to be chairmen of the club. I also dont fancy the prospect of a romanov or Glazer family turning up to toss us around like a toy that can be discarded at will.

 

So what is the answer? Well I dont know but instead of everyone here just bitching about how milne has to go why not get down to the AFC supporters trust and say 'right boys im here to help you find our saviour. What can I do?'

Start actively looking for the man or woman who will take milnes shares and also have the actual sense to run a business instead of 'lets sign him for £15k a week, and him and him and him and well win the champions league in 4years blach fucking blah.

Tell ya what, get down to David murray and see if he knows someone who is willing to just give away £100million of their company cash to stop the bank shutting down the club and at the same time kill their own business.

Once you've got someone, set up a meeting down at pittodrie with your clear business plan and set us free from this apparent ogre.

 

Even rangers cant find some old hun millionaire to buy them out of the shit they are in.

Yanks are doing their best to shaft liverpool and Man united (only Villas guy seems to have any sense)

West Ham are now onto their 3rd owner in the last 10 years but are financially fucked

Man city and chelsea will just vanish should abramovich and the arabs decide 'im not playing anymore'

Ashley coudnt find anyone to buy newcastle so is their equivalent of milne

Portsmouth anyone?

 

far as Im aware the only 'big' club in the UK that isnt one fuck up from disaster is Arsenal but ill be insterested to see what would happen to them if Emirates Airlines suddenly went bust.

 

Excellent post Tom. Unfortunately thoroughly depressing. I may have to officially give up.

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Guest rocket debris

Potentially the worst decision he ever made in his business life was investing in Aberdeen football club and you honestly believe he is not looking for a way out that wont see him lynched for the man whose leaving caused the liquidation of AFC?

I agree. Excellent post but with one material point that is not strictly accurate.

 

If you consider his personal net worth before and after his involvement with AFC, there is no comparison. Whilst it is impossible to scientifically quantify the amount of advantage that his higher profile gave him in relation to his SMG business, it is possible to accurately quantify the amount of money that he has lost or otherwise in AFC plc.

 

I fail to see how losing no money, over a period of 20 years association with the club, firstly as supplier, then elected board member to chairman for these last dozen years, amounts to "potentially the worst decision he has ever made in his business life". On the contrary, he has made money out of the club. The total "investment" that he has made in AFC plc is represented by 1.6m shares and a loan from his business to Talltray that he enjoys a better than commercial rate of return on. The shares that he acquired, he received at a lower price per share than the ordinary shareholder paid.

 

The crustacean mentality that simplifies his non performance as our chairman by suggesting that it is "common knowledge" that he wants the stadium for flats or whatever is an unsurprising manifestation of frustration, but is more likely to be the imaginings of an ignorant person and he certainly sounded like the most stupid of people. But in considering the overall picture, mostly all questions are valid including the motivations of the chairman. If you are suggesting poor Stewarty, wish he'd never got involved, looking for a sharp exit then that is pure and utter fucking bullshit. He has made money out of AFC plc, continues to make money out of it - directly - and has entrenched himself into the fabric of the club by resisting all dialogue or opposition as he cemented his place at the top of the dung heap. With spare change in his pocket, he could buy an exit strategy which every Aberdeen fan would welcome and would guarantee his good will. Even a gesture to give his shares away at a reasonable price and walk away would cost him fuck all. The truth is he doesn't want out. He has unfinished business and this poor Milne line is a diversion from examining the facts, of the personal advantages that he has had during his association with us, and the abortion of his management results at AFC both on and off the pitch, the only thing that should matter to Aberdeen FC supporters and customers.

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