Football: Monaco and bust as wheel of fortune turns its back on No 10

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The Independent Online
I BLAME Jock McKilt, he was the one who said to me, the night of my debut: "I'm givin' yee the No 10 shirt because you're a classic No 10. Wear it with pride."

And I did, through a dozen clubs, four relegations, a promotion and an FA XI cap. No one ever took that shirt off me, not even Pele when we played together for the New York Cosmos - though it did look odd, two of us wearing No 10. I still have that shirt on the wall of the outside loo, the No 10 , the number of Pele, Maradona, Zico, Currie, Bowles, Brooking and Gaffer.

Never again. I was flying on Wednesday night, baccarat, blackjack, craps, the lot. Winning all the way. I had more chips than Harry Ramsden and more girls on my arm than Jim Davidson. Then I arrived at the roulette table and said to myself, "you've had 10 on your shirt all your life, now put your shirt on 10."

They all piled on, my winning run had got noticed and half of Monaco were betting with me, two national managers and a couple of Manchester United players (no names, no pack drill), a Newcastle player who'd discharged himself from a Dublin hospital and caught the first plane over, half a dozen crowned kings of minor states and a gaggle of former Tory politicians still trying to win back their deposits. As the wheel spun I thought "this is it, Barry Algernon Gaffer, you are going down as the man who broke the bank in Monte Carlo".

Then the wheel stopped, the ball bounced around just like another ball had on the Stade Louis II, I sipped my dry martini (shaken not stirred) and froze as it landed on eight. Why, oh why, had old McKilt not given me the No 8 shirt, virtually the same position, even those days. I wouldn't be skint and Pele might still be talking to me.

The place was as silent as Selhurst Park when Wimbledon are at home. The girls drifted away like George Graham spotting the tax man, suddenly I had more space around me than Victor Ikpeba had managed all night - and even fewer fans. "Il est malheureux," said the croupier insincerely. He wiped the sweat of his brow, raked the chips in with a shovel and added: "Vous etes mal comme un perroquet, n'est pas?"

I gave him a bit of choice Anglo-Saxon back and suddenly two large and unsmiling gentlemen were alongside in penguin suits, removing the free bevvies the management had plied me with, and helping me to the door. Luckily a couple of press lads who had passed out in the gutter outside broke my landing.

Fortunately, I had taken the precaution of leaving a few francs in my room - it's a habit I developed after a salutary experience in Marrakesh one year - and that meant I was able to get back to the Old Cornfield.

That was important as we've finally landed our new assistant. On the advice of one of my former chairmen I picked up an old Rothmans, found the list of then-Sludgethorpe players, stuck in a pin and, at the third attempt, found someone who is now working as a coach. Gregory Johnson will thus join the club as soon as we've agreed a deal with Third Division strugglers Elliston Villa.

Meanwhile, the chairman has gone missing. He went on that countryside march last week wearing his foxskin jacket and was last seen running across Hyde Park pursued by a pack of dogs and half-a-dozen overweight red-jacketed jockeys. We're very concerned as he had his club keys with him and, though we've forced the boardroom door, we're having trouble getting into the drinks cabinet and safe. We've asked Cliff Phace to reprise his old burglary skills, but if that doesn't work we'll have use Plan B, Ruben Tuesdai's stick of dynamite.

Shaun Prone and Ivor Niggle are both out of today's game, it's purely a selection decision based on form, nothing to do with their having squad numbers eight and 10.