Stairways to Heaven & Hell, by Rupert Bates

Date:

Saturday 25th February 2012

To the tune of "She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes" - all together now - "You can stick your f***ing houses up your ar*e..."

Blimey, that's a bit fruity for a National Trust AGM. I know they are at the vanguard of an ignorant anti-development campaign, but language please NIMBYs, language.

Actually the chant did not emanate from the National Trust, but from the terraces of Molineux, home to Premier League football club Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The target of their ire - after a dismal defeat to Liverpool last month - was Wolves owner and chairman Steve Morgan, better known at whathouse.co.uk as the founder and chairman of Redrow Homes.

Morgan completely understood the anger of the fans because nobody was more furious than Morgan and after the match in the dressing room, he let the players know his feelings in what is euphemistically described as "no uncertain terms".

What's this got to do with housebuilding? I'm not sure. But watching Morgan watching Wolves taught me something about one man's passion to do the very best at whatever he does, be it building new homes, or running a football club. Morgan can accept off days and days when Lady Luck leaves town just when you think you're getting somewhere with her. But what is totally unacceptable is a lack of effort and desire. There's a reason why Pride is in the Redrow Homes logo, even if Joy was in short supply that cold West Midlands night.

It went from bad to worse with a hammering at home by Black Country rivals West Bromwich Albion, which saw Wolves part company with manager Mick McCarthy, followed by a vain trawl for a high-profile replacement, ending with the appointment of assistant manager Terry Connor until the end of the season.

Some fans see a multi-millionaire chairman and roll out the clichés, assuming Morgan acquired the club as a plaything to indulge his hobby, or as a means of making a few more quid.

A plaything? If you could see the hurt, and I mean ripped-out heart hurt, on Morgan's face after the Liverpool game this toy was no fun at all, and as for making money, you can hear the giant bronze statue of the late, great Wolves legend Billy Wright at the Molineux entrance chuckling at the very thought of turning a profit from a football club.

In the barmy finances of football, Morgan is a rare voice of reason, but equally aware that with TV money hideously distorting any conventional business model, Premier League survival is paramount.

What's this got to do with housebuilding? I'm not sure. Perhaps it's that word passion again. Much is made of Morgan's wealth, but his motivations for running a football club are about as far removed from several other Premier League owners as the gas fields of North East Russia are from the building plots of Flintshire. Land boosts Morgan's bank balance; football feeds his soul.
After that Liverpool defeat - and as a born-and-bred Scouser with a failed bid for Liverpool on his football CV, Morgan's heard all the ‘jokes' - you sensed Morgan wanted to go and apologise to every Wolves fan in the stadium.

Perhaps he might have gone further and loaned everyone of them £5,000 (as his father did to him) to set up as a civil engineering sub-contractor; upgrade a sewerage as their first project and see whether they could eventually turn it into the thick end of £400 million. Then every fan could buy his own Lionel Messi and Wolves could make Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City look like Derby County in football's rich list.

Entrepreneurs are born, not made, or they are made very young. As a boy, Morgan had not one, but two morning paper rounds. It meant being 15 minutes late for school. But as Colwyn Bay High was Protestant, young Morgan argued, as a Catholic, he should be excused assembly that lasted - 15 minutes.

The plan at Molineux was to catch Morgan for 15 minutes after the game to talk Part L; whether Eric Pickles could make it as a holding midfielder, the marvellous acronym that is SUDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems), the latest Redrow video featuring five-year-old Issy and flag my idea to get Wolves vice-president and Led Zeppelin rock god Robert Plant to do the next tour of a Redrow show home and have him "buying a stairway to heaven'.
Such chat might have made this column more to do with housebuilding. But a football match told me a lot more about a housebuilder.

Rupert Bates is editorial director of www.whathouse.com

Steve Morgan of Redrow Homes

Steve Morgan, Chairman of Wolverhampton Wanders FC and founder and chairman of Redrow Homes

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