Football: The Gaffer Tapes: When I see a bandwagon I jump on board

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The Independent Online
THE great thing about football is that it is one big family. If someone is in trouble everyone rallies round. So as soon as I got the call last week I knew I had to help out.

Within minutes I'd been on the blower to all the gang, Franzi, Pele and Michel, George and Sir Bob, Macca, Jamie and Incy and, of course, all the United boys. They may not be fit for England but, when it comes to a charity match to raise funds to save the Wetherfield One, they were up and running.

Those of you who don't watch the commercial channel, or read the tabloids, may not know who the Wetherfield One is. I refer to Diedrie Barlow, as I still call her, Coronation Street's very own people's princess. Poor Diedrie's been stitched up and framed big time and the Rovers Return Sunday Pub League XI, which I had the pleasure of gracing in my late playing days, asked me to help. Now, while I don't actually watch the programme myself I know a bandwagon when I see it and this one is definitely worth jumping on, already everyone from Tony Blair to The Sun are aboard.

Naturally the first person I rang was George at Leeds. Every time I see him he moans about being the victim of a miscarriage of justice so I knew he'd be keen. I wanted him to be the bag man, we expect to take a lot of cash at the gate, but when I told him it meant flying to Switzerland to bank the goodies he bottled it and mumbled something about wanting to keep his feet on the ground.

Still, we've got a pitch sorted and expect to do pretty well. The best bit is that as Diedrie is a figment of someone's imagination and she doesn't really incur court costs we can keep all the loot. And when she's inevitably freed in some future episode we can join in back-slapping.

Talking of money-spinners I got a great idea on my midweek travels with Chelsea. The way these trips operate is the best little earner since Bosman. You hire a cheap plane and check out a cheap hotel miles from the plush one the team are in. Then you calculate how many seats the team and official hangers-on need, add in a buffer zone of five rows of empty seats - to keep the smell away - and flog the rest of them to the press and "executive punters" (there always some prepared to pay the earth to sit within singing distance of Ed De Goey).

The idea is to overcharge the press and punters by enough to ensure the team travel free. So the Chelsea trip was marked up to about pounds 800 for one night in a hotel, two flights and a couple of coach journeys. The profit probably paid Zola's wages for a whole week.

Fortunately I got a Managers' Union discount as it was a fact-finding trip. I now know 11 Italians are better than three, especially if the 11 earn cumulatively less than the three.

This is the sort of knowledge we'll need in the Intertoto Cup next season. Yep, that's right, Sludgethorpe Brazil are taking on the might of Europe for the first time since the chairman's dad flew Lancaster bombers in the War. We see the Intertoto as a fundamental part of repositioning the brand as a pan-European identity in an expanding market. Plus, since the first rounds clash with the World Cup we might make a few quid by trading on the Brazil part of our name and offering it for ambush advertising to Nike's rivals. "Just sell it", that's our motto.

Not that football is all about money, it's still about glory and the love of the game. At least that's what it says in the preamble to our lottery submission for a retractable roof on the Old Cornfield. We are thinking of going into partnership with the local county cricket side and staging floodlit one-day matches. Come to think of it, we could have a benefit cricket match for Diedrie as well. What's Athers' number? He's a Manchester lad and he won't be too busy right now.

Shaun Prone and Ivor Niggle are both out today, they're acting as my betting runners at Aintree. I let Fritz Unstartz take charge of the team but only after he promised not to play Duane Spice on the wing. Hope we win, but not in style.

PS: Congratulations to Bill Clinton. My lawyer says the collapse of Paula Jones' suit should help in three of the sexual harrassment cases against me.

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