STEELERS’ championship-winning player-coach Ben Simon today responded to a startling attack by his former boss Paul Ragan.
In yesterday’s Star, club owner Ragan partially blamed Simon for some of the financial ills that beset his Rink Crop company, which has gone into liqudiation. But the American, who resigned after last season, told The Star: “I firmly believe that I left Steelers in a far better state than when I took the job.
“I sincerely hope the team finds a way out of this, (liquidation) and does it the right way. The players and fans deserve the best.”
Simon says he has no desire to get in a slanging match with Ragan.
But he has confronted the accusations published by this newspaper yesterday. He challenged:
The suggestion he “secretly signed” player contracts with two of his “best buddies” after announcing he was leaving the club: “I signed (Rob) Globke and (Neil) Clark before I left and had no idea if I was staying or going. I was protecting them and their MBA studies. Had I stayed, I would give them the same terms, regardless. I never was told I needed their permission. I followed league protocol. I was loyal, not deceptive.”
Accusations that he failed to manage club finances: “Our equipment budget was lower than the last five years prior, the housing budget was followed according to what Bob Phillips let me spend, and our physio bills were for treatment of players injured sacrificing their bodies for the team.”
A claim that he left his rented house in such a bad state the bond had to be forfeited: “I guess he wasn’t there when I was steam cleaning carpets and scrubbing toilets before leaving. The place was left cleaner than I found it...why would they give me my last week’s wages - which they are entitled to withhold - if I did such a thing? This is the first I have heard about this. I am sure they would have let me know if I did truly do this.”
The notion that he was a “manically depressive” character: “Talk to the rest of the team and staff and ask them about me. I think you may get a different opinion.”
Ragan’s claim he was difficult to manage: “That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. I strove to be professional and make people accountable. Paul is a business man, not a hockey man. There is a distinct difference. I wanted better communication and more structure...pretty simple. I was not a ‘yes man’ and stood by my principals. If I was that difficult to manage, why did he offer me ‘the best financial package in UK history?’”
The suggestion he “ran scared” from the club after discovering its player wage ceiling for the 2011-12 season would be comparable with other teams: “Ragan is now looking for others to blame. I never back down from a challenge or I never would have come to Sheffield in the first place.
“Putting myself in his shoes, he has to do this; he cannot accept liability. It does seem very contradicting, however, to see how fond he was of me during my time there and now that he has closed down his company.”
The American former NHL player also criticised Steelers official Dave Simms, alleging there was a “conflict of interest of our media officer going on message boards and discussing things. Not really professional to say the least.”
Simon concluded: “I don’t want to get into a personal battle with Ragan. I have moved on with my life. I suggest he do the same and focus his attention on his business or team.”
Ragan has pledged to speak to supporters about the liquidation at a forum on Thursday (7.30pm) at the Richard Roberts Building of Sheffield University, off Brook Hill.
Meanwhile coach Ryan Finnerty admits he hasn’t much idea about the details himself.
He said: “I’m a hockey man not a business man. I don’t quite understand what has happened but I am cracking on with the job of signing the best team I can.”