Football: Dye-soaked Gazza is strung up by the ankles

THE GAFFER TAPES
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THE GAFFER

TAPES

I THINK I've blown our chances of signing Paul Gascoigne, literally, but it was hardly my fault. For weeks now there's been a conspiracy against me. It's not just the usual stuff, our team playing poorly, opposition goalkeepers having blinders, refs only seeing penalties for the other side. After you've been in the game as long as I have you realise every manager thinks that. It goes with the job.

No, this was different. I've been followed, my neighbours have had strange people asking questions about me, vile rumours have been spread. At first I thought it was the Child Support Agency, or a private dick for one of my ex-wives. I've had all that in the past but we're all on good terms at present.

Then I noticed that every Wednesday, the night before the dustmen came, someone was going through my wheelie bin. So I booby-trapped it, I rigged up a few wires so if it was opened a bucket of purple dye would fall on the perpetrator and one of those man-traps which leave a bloke hanging from a tree by his ankle would whip into action. It was one of those times when my days in the scouts came in handy.

Late that night there was a sudden commotion. I went out to see a chubby figure hanging upside down, red dye dripping from his head, saying "way- eh mon, whit's ga-wan on?" It was Gazza. He'd come round to ask me to sign him.

We'd spoken on the phone earlier. "Only Crystal Palace really want me," he had said. "I'm desperate, I can't go there. Thomas Brolin's already snaffled the seat next to the dinner lady and he's also tuck shop monitor. The dressing-room's not going to be big enough for both of us."

However, just before he knocked on my door he opened my bin to chuck in a few Mars Bar wrappers... splat.

He took it badly. "I'd rather put up with a Swede than look like a beetroot," he said before storming off in tears. He would have bumped into that bloke from the Premier League's bungs commission as he went, but fortunately the guy had a big pair of rubber gloves on so he was able to keep Gazza away. Funny that he happened to be in the area.

It's a shame though, I even had Joao Havelange's backing for my bid. Good old Jo, he can always be relied upon for patronage, he's now told Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and England they have his support for 2006. He's made a career out of telling people what they want to hear. The incredible thing is, it still works, just look at the headlines this week. You could almost hear Tone and Mandy thinking "wow, what an operator".

Fifa has got a few things right though. Marco rang up this week, he was so emotional he could hardly talk. "At last", he said, "at last". Then he went quiet as he thought of all the tackles from behind that slashed his ankles and finished his beautiful career. "The horror, the horror," he whispered before he put the phone down. They should use a special orange card for these dismissals and name it the Van Basten in his honour.

The decision to ban reserve goalies from joining the squad until summoned is handy as well - it could be a nice little earner. I've formed the World Cup Goalie Camp Plc to accommodate keepers from places like Argentina, Brazil, South Korea and South Africa who are going to be 10-16 hours flying time from France. We're only a few hours by Channel Tunnel so they're much better off staying in Sludgethorpe.

For a small fee they can kip at the club's youth academy hostel (the lads will be home as it's off-season). Bruno, down the local caff, has promised to introduce a few foreign recipes such as pasta, rice, curry, quiche and burritos though neither he nor Rover looked too happy when I told him South Koreans eat dog.

Ivor Panic will give them daily training sessions and there's a jogging path along the canal towpath. We're knocking together a brochure and in case all that doesn't work we're including a few pictures of Swettie Bettie.

Meanwhile, Shaun Prone's out again this week after he argued with me about team selection. He think's he should be in it. He claims there's a clause in his contract says he has to play but there isn't any longer, the chairman had it drawn up in invisible ink. With Ivor Niggle gone to West Ham on loan I'm down to the bare bones.

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