Football: It wasn't Sir Hirem who spent half-a-million lire in Rome's Hot Hands Massage Club

The Gaffer Tapes
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Bon jorno from Roma where the Eternal city is already enjoying the lurid sights and beery sounds of Englishmen abroad.

But that's enough of events at the press hotel. I'm here, with the chairman, to help England's World Cup campaign and assess some potential signings. Both prospects look good to me though Sir Hirem Firem may need some persuading when it comes to personal terms for the Italians I've lined up. One of them wants to stay at Buckingham Palace while he goes house-hunting and the other is demanding we sign the chef from his favourite restaurant to be his cook.

I had hoped to get Demetrio Albertini and Paolo Maldini after Milan's poor start to the season, but they refused to budge for anyone except Ruud. It was a blow at first but, to be honest, I think they're vastly overrated. I'm sure the lads I've sorted out, Cosi Fan Tutti and Dolce Vita, will be a sensation when we unveil them at the Old Cornfield.

They'll need to be as the chairman's not happy with me. It's not the football, we gained our first win last week and are now only five points adrift. As I told him, I'm now the leading contender for the October manager of the month award.

The problem is over an incident on our first night in Rome and it could have repercussions for a while. We'd gone out for a meal and, unfortunately, picked up one another's credit cards by mistake after paying the bill. Had we gone to bed straight after it wouldn't have been a problem but I told him I'd like to go for a stroll by the Tiber first.

Next morning at breakfast I had to tell him I had some good news and some bad news. The good news was I had his credit card, the bad news was I'd used it. The money I spent isn't a problem, he'll dock it off my wages, the difficulty surrounds where I spent it. Apparently Mrs Firem deals with the bills and now Sir Hirem's going to have to explain that it wasn't him that ran up a bill of a half-a-million lire in the Hot Hands Massage Club.

Of course, we didn't let a little thing like that distract us from helping the cause. We've both been heavily involved with England's preparation and I can tell you Glenn's left nothing to chance. Having put out and collected all the cones myself and looked after the practice balls I can tell you we will have a full complement for the pre-match warm-up. Sir Hirem has made sure the lads won't lack for that vital half-time lift either by bringing out plenty of tea-bags. He even went to the effort of having some PG Tips sent out after Glenn told him Tony Adams and Paul Merson don't drink Tetley's anymore.

It's been instructive watching Glenn's training sessions. He's very much a player's manager. Every time someone misses a tackle, makes a bad pass or shoots wide he stops the play and calls everyone into a circle. He then holds a discussion group aimed at helping the unfortunate player to accept his mistake and come to terms with it. For really bad cases, like when Gazza was nutmegged by David Batty, he sits the player down and counsels him on a one-to-one basis.

It's all come a long way from the days when the worst trainer had to wear a pair of the tea lady's knickers outside their trousers in the pub afterwards.

Meanwhile, there's been good news from home with Ego Massive recuperating well from the operation on the horrible internal injuries he suffered last week. I'd told him that celebratory jump over the corner flag was not a good idea.

Ivor Niggle's also getting better after cutting his hand opening a supermarket, but Shaun Prone has pulled another muscle climbing off the treatment table.

Have to go as Glenn and I are off to the Vatican for a quick good-luck prayer. I know we beat Poland but I'm sure the Pope won't hold that against us. As they don't say in Roma, Forceps Ingly Terra.

- Barry Gaffer was talking to