Keith Harris is a ventriloquist best known for operating a fluffy duck called Orville. Together, in 1983, they reached No 4 in the charts, singing "I wish I could fly, way up to the sky, but I can't". I don't think it's the same Keith Harris who has been trying to find a buyer for Everton FC these last few years, but it might as well have been.
In Bill Kenwright's meeting with the Blue Union supporters' group last week, the Everton chairman, among many other candid admissions that he was promised would be kept confidential, reportedly explained that Harris, who runs investment bank Seymour Pierce, did once find potential purchasers for the beleaguered club, and that they were allowed to conduct due diligence before turning out to be hoaxers. It turned out that the man claiming to be the one-time head of ICI in East Asia didn't own a hedge fund, as Harris believed. In fact, he didn't even own a hedge. He lived in a one-bedroom flat.
All this, compounded by Kenwright's revelation that Barclays Bank has cut the club's overdraft facility, would make Everton a laughing stock if it weren't for the gallows humour already in full swing along Goodison Road. I received two text messages last week from fellow Evertonians. One of them exulted in our team's unbeaten start to the season, having confounded our reputation as slow starters by surviving the Premier League's opening weekend without conceding a single goal – albeit partly, if not entirely, as a consequence of not having played yet, following the postponement, in the wake of the riots, of the fixture at Tottenham Hotspur. Speaking of which, the other text reported that rioters had broken into Goodison Park and caused £30,000 worth of improvements.
But despite what Reader's Digest used to tell us, laughter is not always the best medicine. There are only two ways in which Evertonian pain can be quelled. One is for Harris, or Roger de Courcey, or even the late Ray Alan and Lord Charles, or somebody, to find new sources of investment in a club that, by any measure, is one of the great institutions of English football, residents of the top division for longer than Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool or anyone else you care to mention. The other, if only as a short-term palliative, is for David Moyes and his players to get off, unlike Orville the Duck, to a flyer. That means three emphatic points today against Queen's Park Rangers.
Some supporters, dispiritingly, see Moyes as part of the venerable club's problems rather than its brightest asset. Yet if anyone's standing has been enhanced by Kenwright's meeting with the Blue Union it is surely that of the Everton manager. Everyone knew that in repeatedly securing top-eight finishes he had to deal with financial constraints. Not many were aware that the constraints amount to a straitjacket, chloroform and a sack over the head.
Kenwright, meanwhile, told the Blue Union that he has received death threats, and I don't suppose he will take his seat in the directors' box today feeling quite up to dispensing his usual bonhomie. I should add here that I know, like and respect Bill Kenwright. I have sat both in his London office and his home talking Everton, and have also received his hospitality at Goodison.
Of course, responsible sports journalism sometimes means having to bite the hand that feeds you half-time sandwiches, but I honestly don't think that he deserves bitter abuse, let alone threats to his life. It is my fervent belief that he has always acted in the best interests, or what he sincerely considered were the best interests, of a club for which he manifestly feels a passion that impressed even the Blue Union posse. That said, he has just as manifestly made mistakes, and maybe the biggest of them is not being a billionaire.
Another might just be the faith he has shown in Keith Harris, whose namesake eventually managed to convince Orville the Duck that even though he couldn't fly way up to the sky, everything would be OK. If only Evertonians could find similar reassurance.
Mourinho goes from Special to Specious One
When Jose Mourinho became manager of Internazionale three years ago, he gave a press conference in which he radiated urbane intelligence and wit, and did so in very passable Italian, which not even seasoned Mourinho watchers knew was part of his repertoire.
We were not then aware that he would win Serie A in successive seasons at Inter, and the Champions League, but that press conference alone seemed like ample confirmation of the status he had bestowed on himself at Chelsea, as European football's "Special One". When he moved on to Real Madrid there was no reason to doubt that he would again assert his brilliance. And yet this week, with more boorish outbursts and whether or not he intended to poke Barcelona's assistant coach, Tito Vilanova, in the eye, Mourinho completed his transformation into the Specious One. The consensus in Spain seems to be that Spanish football no longer needs him. And I can't help thinking that English football does not need him back.
How to survive a life in boxing
Don King is 80 today. Bob Arum, another of the world's top boxing promoters, turns 80 later this year. Frank Warren will be 60 next year, shows no signs of slowing down, and usually looks almost cherubically healthy. Proof, as if it were needed, that the really smart guys in boxing do their bobbing and weaving behind desks and on telephones.Reuse content