Football: The Gaffer Tapes: Real Betis were playing on the Sunday, so I had to miss the singles

Click to follow
The Independent Online
As I told the chairman, as Fallover Athletic embarked on a fourth lap of honour, "this Coca-Cola Cup's not worth winning now you don't get in Europe. It brings distractions, injuries, fixture congestion. Now we can get on with the business of surviving in the Premiership."

"As long as we do that," said Sir Hirem Firem rather too coolly, adding, "meanwhile, I'll cancel the Wembley hotel you told me to book after the first leg."

The press were more sympathetic, nothing, I'm sure, to do with my announcing I'd restored their free bar back at our place. I gave them the same spiel and added: "That's why I decided to play an experimental side. It was a good chance to see a few players and try a few things. I learned a lot tonight, mainly just what a mess Big Mick left me with.

"Now," I added, thumping the table for emphasis, "perhaps the chairman will give me the money I need to put this great club back on its feet and give the fans the team they deserve."

That should buy me some breathing space with the punters. As for the chairman, I'll tell him I was misquoted.

Then, after telling Kit Mann, my assistant, that there was to be no drink stop on the way home, I left a team that had gone from my first choice to "experimental" in 90 minutes to stew on the coach while I pointed the Ferrari back down the A1.

It was a long drive, not helped by two hours in Worksop nick for doing 110mph. Had to promise a few free tickets to get out of that one.

The night took the gloss of a good start to the week. While I was in Valderrama last weekend on a scouting mission (no luck, Real Betis were playing on Sunday so I had to miss the singles) we gained our first point. Then I went down to Brighton to help the FA plug the World Cup 2006 bid at the Labour Party conference.

Tone looked a bit nervous when he spotted me. We haven't met since I accidentally knocked him off his nag while we were both out fox-hunting with Sir Hirem, Rupert Murdoch and Bernard Ingham in the Quantocks a few years ago. As I approached he had a quick word with a sinister-looking fella alongside and, just as I began saying, "Tony, old mate, not seen you since..." this fella stepped in and gave me the slyest body check since Marco Gentile cracked three of my ribs in Turin 20 years ago.

"Terribly sorry," he said as I got up, "don't think we've met. Peter Mandelson's the name and Tony's asked me to look after you. Said he still blames himself and I'm to see you have some Bolly on the Party."

Well, turned out he was an old fan of Blackfarm Rovers where I'd had my glory days and we were soon reminiscing. He didn't half remember it well, though it was a bit annoying that his bleeper kept going off. I'm sure I caught sight of one message saying "Millbank response unit: Ask him about the Cup win over Arsenal in '74" , but it's probably the champers playing tricks with my memory.

Anyway, it got so late it turned out Tone had gone to another function, a dinner with the Asparagus Growers' Union. Big Party stalwarts, according to Pete, who was kind enough to get me a taxi to the station. Wasn't until Clapham Junction I remembered I'd driven down.

Thursday I went to that FA coaches conference. They can't teach me much these days but I did learn one thing - never leave a mobile on when Fergie's doing a speech. He also said you should never use gimmicks in coaching, things like making players do three star jumps and a press-up between heading drills. Huh, he's just trying to wreck my coaching, he knows we're playing them soon and he must be worried.

I'll have to increase security at training now I know he's been spying. Otherwise he'll pick up a few more tricks and before you know it he'll have Ryan Giggs doing speedwork in Dr Martens; Peter Schmeichel down at the other Old Trafford sharpening his reactions catching cricket balls from the bowling machine; and Becks, Pally and the rest of them playing strip six-a-side - there's nothing like knowing you're down to your jockstrap to make a team defend with their life. And when it rains like it did this week it makes for a belting game.

Meanwhile we've got problems for Saturday. I expected Shaun Prone to be on his back again, and Ivor Niggle to be out, but half the team claim they've got flu. At this rate I'll have to play. Wonder if I can get a boot deal sorted.

Barry Gaffer was talking to Glenn Moore

Comments