MICK'S OWN PALACE; It's Taken Guts Admits Channon as Kid from a Two-Up and Two-Down Spends [Pounds Sterling]2m to Buy out the Queen.
Byline: COLIN MACKENZIE
IN a startling parable of our times, a man born in a two-up two-down council house in a tiny hamlet on Salisbury Plain has just purchased the Queen's magnificent stables at West Ilsley, in the Royal county of Berkshire.
It was 50 years ago last November that Jack and Bet Channon, of 2 Whatcombe Brow, Orcheston, Wiltshire, had a son, Michael. There were modest celebrations at the tiny home of the Army lorry driver and his wife - a pint of stout and a cup of tea to be precise.
Some 100 miles to the east, Princess Elizabeth, heir to the throne, was celebrating the birth of her first born, Charles.
There was champagne, christening cake and a party for the assembled royal dynasties of Europe.
That the two families should ever meet was long odds against. That Michael, now universally known and respected as Mick Channon, the former England striker, should enjoy such success as a racehorse trainer that he could pay [pounds sterling]2million-plus for the Queen's prized training establishment and manicured gallops would have defied the auguries of Nostradamus.
But, subject to contracts which have yet to be signed, the boy who left Amesbury Secondary Modern without an O-level to his name in 1964 will be the proud owner of the finest private training establishment in Her Majesty's kingdom. And Channon's wife Jill, a former air hostess and interior designer, will be chatelaine of
a magnificent eight-bedroomed mansion, with a dozen cottages and more than 300 acres of rolling countryside.
Channon, the mop-haired striker who donned the England shirt 46 times, was famous for celebrating his many goals with a windmill-like rotation of his right arm.
There are some in the rarefied and still socially stiff world of racing who wonder if Channon is now
tilting at windmills.
After all, they reason, Lord Hunting-don - a very able trainer and who inherited not only a title but a fortune - could not make We s t Ilsley pay. He decided last October to retire because of mounting costs, forcing the Queen to put her much-loved stables on the market, having acquired the yard in 1982 for [pounds sterling]1.2m. So how could Channon, who never earned more than [pounds sterling]500 a week as a star footballer, afford West Ilsley, let alone make it a commercially viable proposition?
'I've always had guts and this decision has taken that,' Channon said.
'The difference between me and William (Huntingdon) is that I'll be bringing 115 horses to West Ilsley. He only had about 60 and that didn't add up financially.
'As soon as I saw the house and stables I had to have it. It's so warm and welcoming - it's a bit unique, too, being so private. A lot of people thought I must have had a backer - but I haven't, other than the bank.' One of the first to be told of this
momentous move was Channon's old pal and partner in his Jamesmead stud, Kevin Keegan, the new England manager.
Keegan provided Channon, the
trainer, with his first winner with his own homebred filly Golden Scissors in 1990.
Astonishingly, a year earlier the Jockey Club had refused Channon a licence to train, citing inexperience and lack of funds. …