When former Newcastle star Olivier Bernard bought Durham City in 2013, he promised to make them one of the best feeder clubs in the northeast.
Nine years on, and the 43-year-old is still in charge but is not at the wheel, completely absent from management as the 11th-tier side descend into freewill. Just 13 games into the season, and Durham City have conceded an outrageous 128 times and are rock bottom of the Wearside League.
In fact, the club have won just once since 2019 and fans are sick of the ownership and are desperate to see Bernard leave. But the ex-Magpies defender has no intention of selling up, telling them he has not got the time to run the club.
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He told The Sun: “I own it but I left two years ago. I’ve got the power to change things but do I have the time? No. And the last thing I want to do is go down to Durham — it’s another hour’s drive."
Where once Durham City attracted crowds of more than 1,000, the numbers have dwindled to around a dozen nowadays. It was around that number on Saturday when FC Hartlepool smashed them 10-0.
Chris Tanner has been in charge since last December but runs the club from Sydney in Australia and has been branded 'Kim Jong Tan' by disgruntled fans.
Now homeless, Durham City play nearly eight miles from Durham in Houghton-le-Spring near Sunderland after a series of failed groundshares. But does Bernard admit that his ownership has driven fans away?
“They probably have but, regardless of whether Newcastle fans liked Mike Ashley, they still went to the stadium," he added. “I want to help but I didn’t put Chris in place. The previous board did.
“They all left, it then went t*ts-up and they are now blaming me. I’ve got nothing to do with it. It’s very sad but I need to truly understand why it is like that. We’ll have a direction by Christmas but I’m not in a rush.
“Durham City was a great idea at first. I thought it was going to be different but as soon as I bought it they tried to stop me doing what I wanted.”
Fans have tried to fight back and a Twitter page called @SaveDurhamCity has started up an independent campaign to rid themselves of their toxic ownership. An interesting thread on the club's situation can be found on their page, detailing the miserly ruin over the past 25 years.
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