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The Case for Chase – Hero or villain?

The Case for Chase – Hero or villain?

27TH JANUARY 2021 BY CHRIS SADLER 31 COMMENTS

 
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I love Robert Chase. 

I do. 

I really do.

You may find at this moment your larynx start to spasm as it begins to form some spiky syllables of disagreement but, for the time being, put a sock in it and bear with me. Please. Allow me to present the Case for Chase…

Robert Chase – more ‘a Doctor in the House’ rather than ‘that doctor from House’ – joined Norwich City’s board in 1982. Three years later he took over as chairman from legendary old-schoolian Sir Arthur South. Although not a majority shareholder, Chase effectively ‘owned’ and ran the club for more than a decade – and during his tenure City enjoyed the greatest footballing period in their history.

In 1987 Norwich City finished fifth in the top division (now the Premier League). Imagine that? 

Two years later he did it again, this time finishing fourth. 

And in 1993 he finished third! Incredible. 

Only the political repercussions of the Heysel tragedy in 1985, and England-wide European football ban that followed, prevented Norwich from creating their own European legacy during this period.

The argument that City suffered because Chase ‘sold all the best players’ doesn’t really hold water because… well, look at the previous few paragraphs. No other chairman or owner has got close to those achievements, before or since. Not. Even. Close.

On the player sales front (see list below), it could be argued Chase maintained City’s financial stability by making it the club self-sustainable which necessitated regular player sales (ringing any bells yet?) And his record on buying players young and cheap and selling them later in their careers is pretty darned good (those little danglers should be clanging loudly by now). In fact that comes across as shrewd. Webber-esque, in fact. (Ding, dong).

Added to Chase’s financial acuity and reinforcing his long-term commitment to the club’s future was the foresight to buy up a whole stack of land round Carrow Road rather than waste it on another Drazen Musinic, Dean Coney, or Darren Beckford (three rare transfer failures). He even built a cute little main stand to replace the burned-down one. No doubt if he’d stayed longer he would have got round to building a proper one.

So, financial acuity, club success, creating an increased national and international profile for the club, upgrading the facilities, and making City a better club to support… where’s the problem?

I love Robert Chase.

I do.

I really do.

(PS. In fact, I believe the only reason Big Bad Bob left in 1996 wasn’t because of the fan protests or his perceived unpopularity, it was because the Bosman Ruling happened just six months prior to his exit and I believe he thought that would seriously impact his modus operandi in buying players cheap and selling them high, and that would seriously threaten the club’s self-sustainability model. There you are – from The Boy Sadler – an exclusive!)  

(PPS. Also a big shout out to the inestimable Geoffrey Watling who magnanimously and bravely stepped into the mire to plug the serious financial gap left when Mr Chase removed himself from the club. Without Mr Watling’s efforts at that time there would be no club left to support.)

The list of significant transfer transactions during Robert Chase’s tenure 

(NB. To give you a better idea what these figures would be equivalent to in today’s inflated transfer market, try multiplying the amounts by somewhere between 10 and 20 times. That’s the sort of money we’d be talking nowadays.)

TRANSFER WINS:

Dave Watson 

SOLD: £900,000 to Everton in 1986

BOUGHT: £50,000 from Liverpool in 1980

Chris Woods 

SOLD: £600,000 to Rangers in 1986

BOUGHT: £225,000 from Nottingham Forest in 1981

Steve Bruce

SOLD: £800,000 to Manchester United in 1987

BOUGHT: £125,000 from Gillingham in 1984

Kevin Drinkell

SOLD: £600,000 to Rangers in 1988

BOUGHT: £90,000 from Grimsby Town in 1985

Wayne Biggins

SOLD: £150,000 to Manchester City in 1988

BOUGHT: £35,000 from Burnley in 1985

Mike Phelan

SOLD: £750,000 to Manchester United in 1989

BOUGHT: £60,000 from Burnley in 1985

Malcolm Allen

SOLD: £400,000 to Millwall in 1990

BOUGHT: £175,000 from Watford in 1988

Andy Townsend

SOLD: £1.2M to Chelsea in 1990

BOUGHT: £300,000 from Southampton in 1988

Andy Linighan

SOLD: £1.2M to Arsenal in 1990

BOUGHT: £350,000 from Oldham in 1988

Dale Gordon

SOLD: £1.2M to Rangers in 1991

BOUGHT: Nominal sign-on fee (first professional contract) in 1984

Robert Fleck

SOLD: £2.1M to Chelsea in 1991 

BOUGHT: £580,000 from Rangers in 1987

Tim Sherwood

SOLD: £650,000 to Tottenham Hotspur in 1992

BOUGHT: £325,000 from Watford in 1989 

Robert Rosario

SOLD: £600,000 to Coventry City in 1994

BOUGHT: Nominal sign-on fee (from non-league) in 1983

Ruel Fox

SOLD: £2.25M to Newcastle United in 1994

BOUGHT: Nominal sign-on fee (first professional contract) in 1986

Efan Ekoku

SOLD: £1M to Wimbledon in 1994

BOUGHT: £500,000 from AFC Bournemouth in 1993

Chris Sutton

SOLD: £5M to Blackburn Rovers in 1994 (a record British fee at the time)

BOUGHT: Nominal sign-on fee (first professional contract) in 1991

Mark Robins

SOLD: £1.1M to Leicester City in 1995

BOUGHT: £800,000 from Manchester United in 1992

Ashley Ward

SOLD: £1.2M to Derby County in 1996

BOUGHT: £350,000 from Crewe Alexandra in 1994

Jon Newsome

SOLD: £1.6M to Sheffield Wednesday in 1996

BOUGHT: £1M from Leeds United in 1994

YOU CAN’T WIN ‘EM ALL:

Dean Coney

SOLD: Retired injured in 1990

BOUGHT: £333,000 from Queens Park Rangers in 1989

Henrik Mortensen

SOLD: Free transfer to Aarhus in 1992

BOUGHT: £350,000 from Aarhus in 1989

Paul Blades

SOLD: £325,000 to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1992

BOUGHT: £700,000 from Derby County in 1990

Darren Beckford

SOLD: £300,000 to Oldham Athletic in 1993

BOUGHT: £925,000 from Port Vale in 1991

Mike Sheron

SOLD: £550,000 to Stoke City in 1995 (where he scored a stack of goals! Bless ‘im)

BOUGHT: £1.2M from Manchester City in 1994 (banjo and cow’s a*se, for us)

AND THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY…

Dion Dublin

SOLD: Free transfer Cambridge United in 1988 (Later went to Man Utd, Coventry City, Aston Villa, & Celtic for combined fees around £10M, before finally returning to City in 2006 for a welcome and classy two-year swansong. Ta muchly, DD)

 

Would Uncle Bob get such a hard ride now? 

 

 

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You forgot to mention that the sale of Ashley Ward was forced by the bank in order to keep the club trading. Shame that Chase forgot to tell Gary Megson about it. In that year we lost Bryan Gunn to injury. Chase couldn't come up with money for a replacement due in part to the fact that he had spent £40k on canary embossed carpet for the boardroom. The failure to replace Gunn led in a large part to relegation from the Premier League and the loss of the income it provided for several years. 

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The answer is yes, he did some good and he did some bad. I expect he always wanted what he thought was best for the club but let's not go back to his financial model of getting short term loans from the bank, it was always going to end badly.

 

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22 minutes ago, dylanisabaddog said:

You forgot to mention that the sale of Ashley Ward was forced by the bank in order to keep the club trading. Shame that Chase forgot to tell Gary Megson about it. In that year we lost Bryan Gunn to injury. Chase couldn't come up with money for a replacement due in part to the fact that he had spent £40k on canary embossed carpet for the boardroom. The failure to replace Gunn led in a large part to relegation from the Premier League and the loss of the income it provided for several years. 

Literally sold him just after I had his name printed on the back of my shirt 🤣

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26 minutes ago, dylanisabaddog said:

You forgot to mention that the sale of Ashley Ward was forced by the bank in order to keep the club trading. Shame that Chase forgot to tell Gary Megson about it. In that year we lost Bryan Gunn to injury. Chase couldn't come up with money for a replacement due in part to the fact that he had spent £40k on canary embossed carpet for the boardroom. The failure to replace Gunn led in a large part to relegation from the Premier League and the loss of the income it provided for several years. 

All true but some of the achievements are impressive when listed. Attendances must have been 40% down on what they are now and no Sky money to help the coffers. 

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No. Sorry, but although these were brilliant times on the pitch, the fact remains that it was not self-sustainable. If it was, the club would not have been in such a terrible state financially when he left.  Was it all worth nearly putting the club out of business?  Not for me. 

It was a classic case of hiding the fact that we were living way beyond our means and it was made worse by the manager at the time insisting he wanted the club to "release the purse strings" to develop the club further. It all seemed rather ridiculous at the time - players clearly ambitious, manager ambitious, fans wanting more - and all the time Chase was between a rock and a hard place - because there was no money to do that.

Why was there no money left?  Because to stay where we were near the top of the league and paying top wages to keep the players we over reached our capabilities as a club.

There is a warning in the story - to stay at the top of the league will cost money, big money, money our club didn't have then - and doesn't have now. If we do well and develop into an established PL team, it will get harder and harder to sustain that because we will never be able to pay big wages needed to keep players happy for any length of time. 

So how do we avoid the problems Chase had, as we get better and better as a club? Well the answer lies in being able to take those tough decisions to sell successful players earlier.  Chase was lucky, we had a good crop of youth players coming through together in such as Sutton/Fox - and others - but it didn't continue, it dried up. Chase put all the money into sustaining the first team and in the end, it was too much. Risdale at Leeds kept pushing the boat out further and further, getting brilliant success on the pitch - until it all folded around him. It was similar with Chase - couldn't control the finances, failed to take tough decisions when needed and very nearly put the club out of business.

For me the big difference between then and now is that self-sustainabilty hase been properly addressed. It has been recognised that the club needs to be strong all the way through, from schoolboy level to the first team and that the first team squad can never again be allowed to be bigger than what we can afford. It's taken a long time, but we have the right policies in place to avoid a Chase like scenario.

Chase was a warning for us. Risdale at Leeds too. And Portsmouth - and many other clubs who tried to live beyond their means. We might look unambitious to some people, but to most of us fans, the club has become a beacon of common sense and good values in a sea of greed and gluttony in the pursuit of money. Long may it continue. The Chase period was flawed, it got evermore about the first team and nearly did for us as a club.  The DS/MJW period has been flawed too - but the big difference is that they have always found a way forwards. The appointment of McNally was genius at the time of trouble and although that was ultimately flawed too, the appointnent of Webber was genius too - and is not flawed, becuse the club is now as healthy as it ever has been and as long as the present policies continue, we are set on a good course.

Chase was a warning. A pusuit of success at the expense of ruination of the very thing you are trying to succeed in. Its a good warning - pursue success, but keep your feet on the ground.

Edited by lake district canary
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The Chase era was brilliant. Delia has never had the same success and has also got into serious financial problems more than once! 
 

I am always surprised by the new supporters thinking that Delia is a saint and Farke is our greatest manager ever. Strange, but guess they didn’t watch pre Delia teams?!

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18 minutes ago, lake district canary said:

No. Sorry, but although these were brilliant times on the pitch, the fact remains that it was not self-sustainable. If it was, the club would not have been in such a terrible state financially when he left.  Was it all worth nearly putting the club out of business?  Not for me. 

It was a classic case of hiding the fact that we were living way beyond our means and it was made worse by the manager at the time insisting he wanted the club to "release the purse strings" to develop the club further. It all seemed rather ridiculous at the time - players clearly ambitious, manager ambitious, fans wanting more - and all the time Chase was between a rock and a hard place - because there was no money to do that.

Why was there no money left?  Because to stay where we were near the top of the league and paying top wages to keep the players we over reached our capabilities as a club.

There is a warning in the story - to stay at the top of the league will cost money, big money, money our club didn't have then - and doesn't have now. If we do well and develop into an established PL team, it will get harder and harder to sustain that because we will never be able to pay big wages needed to keep players happy for any length of time. 

So how do we avoid the problems Chase had, as we get better and better as a club? Well the answer lies in being able to take those tough decisions to sell successful players earlier.  Chase was lucky, we had a good crop of youth players coming through together in such as Sutton/Fox - and others - but it didn't continue, it dried up. Chase put all the money into sustaining the first team and in the end, it was too much. Risdale at Leeds kept pushing the boat out further and further, getting brilliant success on the pitch - until it all folded around him. It was similar with Chase - couldn't control the finances, failed to take tough decisions when needed and very nearly put the club out of business.

For me the big difference between then and now is that self-sustainabilty hase been properly addressed. It has been recognised that the club needs to be strong all the way through, from schoolboy level to the first team and that the first team squad can never again be allowed to be bigger than what we can afford. It's taken a long time, but we have the right policies in place to avoid a Chase like scenario.

Chase was a warning for us. Risdale at Leeds too. And Portsmouth - and many other clubs who tried to live beyond their means. We might look unambitious to some people, but to most of us fans, the club has become a beacon of common sense and good values in a sea of greed and gluttony in the pursuit of money. Long may it continue. The Chase period was flawed, it got evermore about the first team and nearly did for us as a club.  The DS/MJW period has been flawed too - but the big difference is that they have always found a way forwards. The appointment of McNally was genius at the time of trouble and although that was ultimately flawed too, the appointnent of Webber was genius too - and is not flawed, becuse the club is now as healthy as it ever has been and as long as the present policies continue, we are set on a good course.

Chase was a warning. A pusuit of success at the expense of ruination of the very thing you are trying to succeed in. Its a good warning - pursue success, but keep your feet on the ground.

So under this regime we’ve never had serious financial issues or been on the brink of disaster? I can’t remember a spell in league one either under Mr Chase. 

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Disclaimer to start with, I always thought that the fan revolt against Chase was out of proportion. Fans overreact, and the current critics probably have more in common with the "Chase outers" they they would care to admit. They were good years, built on good foundations, but when the wheels came off they really did come off spectacularly. A Norwich way of playing had developed from Bond, through Brown and Stringer to Walker. Chase's firesale in 96 destroyed this and was a major factor in the decade that followed in the second tier. He also left the club with the white elephant of a stand on one side of the ground that is too small for a club of our stature and too expensive/inconvienent to replace.

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2 hours ago, PurpleCanary said:

Very kInd of Big Vince to reveal his real name...🤓

Great minds Purple! As soon as the author referred to themselves as “The Boy” my Spidey sense started tingling.

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18 minutes ago, BigFish said:

Disclaimer to start with, I always thought that the fan revolt against Chase was out of proportion. Fans overreact, and the current critics probably have more in common with the "Chase outers" they they would care to admit. They were good years, built on good foundations, but when the wheels came off they really did come off spectacularly. A Norwich way of playing had developed from Bond, through Brown and Stringer to Walker. Chase's firesale in 96 destroyed this and was a major factor in the decade that followed in the second tier. He also left the club with the white elephant of a stand on one side of the ground that is too small for a club of our stature and too expensive/inconvienent to replace.

I remember being completely underwhelmed when The City Stand was built. It would not have looked out of place at Abbey Stadium. 

The club always trotted out the line over the years at corporate events by ex players that the City Stand would be extended, which of course has never and will never happen - not under the current owners. McNally made it clear that fans weren't a priority, so every year that goes by, the City Stand looks more and more ridiculous. 

That aside, Chase was reasonably ambitious, though not quite enough for some at the time - me included. However, Smith & Jones parochialism was and is not suited to a modern football club. Chase's time was up, but we have had not satisfactory replacement since he left. 

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Who had the most personal wealth Robert Chase or D & M? I suspect the latter, but that there won't be much in it.

Either way, that rich investor with deep pockets that many long for and that many other clubs manage to attract has always avoided Norwich City despite a fair degree of success and exposure over the years.

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46 minutes ago, BigFish said:

Disclaimer to start with, I always thought that the fan revolt against Chase was out of proportion. Fans overreact, and the current critics probably have more in common with the "Chase outers" they they would care to admit. They were good years, built on good foundations, but when the wheels came off they really did come off spectacularly. A Norwich way of playing had developed from Bond, through Brown and Stringer to Walker. Chase's firesale in 96 destroyed this and was a major factor in the decade that followed in the second tier. He also left the club with the white elephant of a stand on one side of the ground that is too small for a club of our stature and too expensive/inconvienent to replace.

I wish our fans had half the spirit about them now as we did then. The threat of one relegation after some player sales was not tolerated then. Now, after 20 plus years of brainwashing, most of our support just accept failure at the top level or indeed almost actively support it with statements such as “I’d rather go down with the current owners than sell our soul”

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53 minutes ago, Midlands Yellow said:

So under this regime we’ve never had serious financial issues or been on the brink of disaster? I can’t remember a spell in league one either under Mr Chase. 

I addressed that in my post.  I said - " The DS/MJW period has been flawed too - but the big difference is that they have always found a way forwards" - which is true. They stuck with it, believed in the club and have seen us through to a timewhen we are as healthy as a club as we have ever been. Chase drove us almost into the ground.

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21 minutes ago, komakino said:

That aside, Chase was reasonably ambitious, though not quite enough for some at the time - me included. However, Smith & Jones parochialism was and is not suited to a modern football club. Chase's time was up, but we have had not satisfactory replacement since he left. 

Really?  People thinking Chase should have been more ambitious and spent more money? 

THERE WAS NONE - it all went on getting where we did get to! 

As for the present incumbents not being suited to a modern football club - that is laughable.  We are the envy of most of the football league, with our promotions, exciting players and club development, all with next to no outside investment.  It's a modern wonder that we are where we are. 

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There seems to be a huge degree of ignorance over the shambles that Chase left behind. Even with the sale of Ward we were teetering on the brink. That sale was forced by Barclays Bank who stated that they would call in their debt if he wasn't sold. That would have led to administration at best and liquidation at worst. 

Someone above has said there was no Sky money to prop us up which I'm afraid is complete rubbish. Yes, it was much smaller than it is now but so were players wages. 

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13 minutes ago, Jim Smith said:

I wish our fans had half the spirit about them now as we did then. The threat of one relegation after some player sales was not tolerated then. Now, after 20 plus years of brainwashing, most of our support just accept failure at the top level or indeed almost actively support it with statements such as “I’d rather go down with the current owners than sell our soul”

Really, Jim, really? It was a horrible time, and what did not tolerating relegation and player sales actually achieve. You must be pleased it ushered in the S&J era I suppose 😉. We went on the spend the best part of a decade in the second tier and we didn't have consecutive years in the top tier again for 18 years. Pretty futile, I think even you must agree. Perhaps the crash and years without success has taught fans the limits of toleration.

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23 minutes ago, Jim Smith said:

I wish our fans had half the spirit about them now as we did then. The threat of one relegation after some player sales was not tolerated then. Now, after 20 plus years of brainwashing, most of our support just accept failure at the top level or indeed almost actively support it with statements such as “I’d rather go down with the current owners than sell our soul”

Do something about it then.

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10 minutes ago, dylanisabaddog said:

There seems to be a huge degree of ignorance over the shambles that Chase left behind. Even with the sale of Ward we were teetering on the brink. That sale was forced by Barclays Bank who stated that they would call in their debt if he wasn't sold. That would have led to administration at best and liquidation at worst. 

Someone above has said there was no Sky money to prop us up which I'm afraid is complete rubbish. Yes, it was much smaller than it is now but so were players wages. 

Yes, and it was Ward and Newsome.

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26 minutes ago, lake district canary said:

Really?  People thinking Chase should have been more ambitious and spent more money? 

THERE WAS NONE - it all went on getting where we did get to! 

As for the present incumbents not being suited to a modern football club - that is laughable.  We are the envy of most of the football league, with our promotions, exciting players and club development, all with next to no outside investment.  It's a modern wonder that we are where we are. 

Believe me, nobody is envious of Norwich City. We have owners that do not invest or attract investment and therefore are superfluous. We might as well have Basil Brush.

 

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1 minute ago, komakino said:

Believe me, nobody is envious of Norwich City.

Believe me. There are plenty - and you don't have to go very far down the road to find some of them.

 

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Chace almost brought the club to financial disaster, ending up with player sales dictated by the bank, often at knockdown prices to force sales through quickly.

It wasn't just that he spent money that we didn't have but also what he spent it on. The £40k spent on carpet that Dylanisabaddog mentioned earlier in the thread is exactly a case in point and was just one example. I remember having a conversation with the much-respected Roy Blower (RIP) where he outlined many similar examples of wasteful expenditure on non-football projects. Many of them were nothing more than for the self aggrandisement of Chase and his cronies.

He lived beyond his means, spent in all the wrong areas and not surprisingly it resulted in a serious downward spiral. We were lucky we managed to survive his stewardship and he deserved all the vitriol he got IMO. The difference between him and our current regime couldn't be starker   

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8 minutes ago, komakino said:

Believe me, nobody is envious of Norwich City. We have owners that do not invest or attract investment and therefore are superfluous. We might as well have Basil Brush.

 

Simply not true. There's about 15 similarly sized clubs who's owners have spent huge amounts of personal wealth to not achieve half the Premier League seasons we have under Delia and Michael.

Heck, the first thing Cooper said coming into Forest is his desire to try and emulate what Norwich have built.

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16 minutes ago, komakino said:

Believe me, nobody is envious of Norwich City. We have owners that do not invest or attract investment and therefore are superfluous. We might as well have Basil Brush.

 

 

6 minutes ago, hogesar said:

Simply not true. There's about 15 similarly sized clubs who's owners have spent huge amounts of personal wealth to not achieve half the Premier League seasons we have under Delia and Michael.

Heck, the first thing Cooper said coming into Forest is his desire to try and emulate what Norwich have built.

It is all hierachy, we are 20th best placed club in England in football terms. Apart from the handful of clubs who realistically fancy promotion from the Chumps every other club would swap places and owners if the chance came up. Those clubs include a number with bigger fan bases and more illustrious historys.

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1 hour ago, Jim Smith said:

I wish our fans had half the spirit about them now as we did then. The threat of one relegation after some player sales was not tolerated then. Now, after 20 plus years of brainwashing, most of our support just accept failure at the top level or indeed almost actively support it with statements such as “I’d rather go down with the current owners than sell our soul”

Absolutely agree.

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5 minutes ago, nutty nigel said:

Thank the Lord for Geoffrey Watling.

Please use the correct Pinkun monicker Geoffrey 'The Wallet' Watling.

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