Football: THE GAFFER TAPES

The saga over the credit card bill has taken a disturbing turn
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The Independent Online
Honestly, I'm getting the hump big time with the FA. No sooner do you spot a way to earn a few extra bob and they clamp down. They never used to move this fast.

There I was, just getting a nice little spread-betting operation going on and they ban people in the game from doing it. The system I had was absolutely foolproof. I got a mate to put a wager on the time of the first substitution. Then I would deliberately pick someone I didn't really want to play and haul him off after five minutes. Since the buying price is about 40 minutes, it was a guaranteed killing.

Against my team's interests? Not at all, it had the effect of making the opposition think there was some master-plan involved - you'd be amazed how many times they then did a substitution as well.

That was the second bit of bad news I had this week. The other was Walter Smith's decision to stand down. Obviously I was disappointed for Walter as he's an old mate, but I was more upset by the phone call I soon got from Gazza.

Apparently chairman David Murray has told him he's a shoo-in for the job as player-manager, so he won't now be coming to the Old Cornfield. This is obviously a huge disappointment, not least because I fancied the Rangers job myself.

There's some jobs about though. As well as Rangers there's Benfica, Feyenoord, Doncaster Rovers and the Mop & Bucket's Sunday League team. I've checked the message on my answer machine just in case. With the theme tune to Match of the Day in the background, it goes: "You are through to the office of legendary manager Barry Gaffer, motto: `No job too big'. Please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I've finished a private coaching session for Ronaldo, Zola and Beckham in the back garden."

It had to be right as I was away in the week in Dublin. The play-off match was disappointing, but it didn't stop me enjoying the famous hospitality with Glenn, Craig and Mick afterwards. It was a bit embarrassing the way people kept asking me for my autograph in front of them, but they understood. With Sky TV shoving a camera up your nose every game, us Premiership managers are now more famous than any international coach.

The only problem was it was a bit of a late session and I had an early flight. So I booked myself a 7am breakfast-cum-alarm call before going to bed. With these long hours I'm putting in these days I must be pretty tired because it seemed no sooner had I fallen asleep watching the in- house video than room service arrived. It was sensational, a full cooked breakfast, every English and Irish newspaper, complimentary box of chocolates and a glass of bucks fizz. "This is impressive," I said to the waiter. "Is it because of who I am?"

"No sir," he said, "but the fact that it's now 9.30 might have something to do with it."

Fortunately I got a later flight, so I was back in time to compare notes with Kit Mann, my assistant. He'd gone to Moscow to watch the Italians play Russia. He seemed to think he'd had the worse deal, but it wasn't my fault he hadn't taken a coat. I would never have borrowed his crombie if he'd told me it was his only one.

Meanwhile, the saga over the credit card bill has taken a disturbing turn. I'd expected Mrs Hirem Firem to be a bit strange towards me after the chairman, her husband, claimed I'd incurred the bills on their joint card at the Hot Hands Massage Club (true) and Black Lace Bar (not true). However, far from being all snooty about it she has suddenly started going out of her way to bump into me.

She keeps saying things like: "I always find a warm pair of hands ever so relaxing." I wouldn't mind except she's my sister-in-law and I think she's interested in blackmail as well as black lace.

As usual, it'll be a relief to get back to the football. We were briefly off the bottom after our point last week and I think we are getting a run together.

There's the usual injury worries. Shaun Prone is still in for observation after rolling his Skoda, Ivor Niggle has pulled a muscle answering the phone and Kit has frostbite. I hope he'll be OK by the evening as it's his job to light the fireworks at the club's annual display.

Barry Gaffer was

talking to Glenn Moore

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