Caught doing the business in a motorway service area

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The Independent Online
JUST how does the Football Association go about finding a new manager for the England team? Well, like most of the best things in the tradition of football, the business tends to takes place very informally . . .

Scene: a table in the Pork Scratchings Motorway Service Area on the M1. Four FA gentlemen are talking very seriously to a man wearing a double-breasted training suit, whose name is Eddie.

Eddie: Right then. My man can be your man for that figure a year, plus residuals.

FA man: What residuals?

Eddie: All the normals. Signings, guest appearances on Absolutely Fabulous, T-shirts and so on.

FA man: I'm not sure we'd really want the England manager to get mixed up in all that sort of thing.

Eddie: Oh, come on] Get real] All the players do it with your blessing] Are you going to stop the new manager doing it?

FA man: Yes, but it's different with players . . .

Eddie: And that, if I may say so, has been part of your big mistake over the years. Think of the image difference. The players - all sharp lads in nice suits with nice haircuts, young and attractive, and very popular. The manager - tired-looking, worried-looking, standing on the touchline swearing and shouting, and very unpopular.

FA man: That was because England were usually losing.

Eddie: Doesn't explain why the manager was unpopular and the players weren't. They lost the games, too, remember. No, the image has been all wrong. Can you imagine the Graham Taylor raincoat or the Bobby Robson dark glasses making a million?

FA man: Well, no, but . . .

Eddie: Of course you bleeding well can't] But my man's got great image as a manager. Well, you know his record.

FA man: Talking of his record . . .

At this point two men from the 'Sun' approach the table.

Sun: Excuse me, gents, are you the policemen who have certain information to offer about certain activities taking place in certain lay-bys on certain roads?

Eddie: Sorry, mate, we have no certain knowledge of what you're bleeding on about.

Sun: Excuse us.

Some policemen waiting at a nearby table wave, and they go over.

Eddie: My boy's record speaks for itself. Two championships in five years. Four appearances on TV chat shows. Start the Week with Melvyn Bragg.

FA man: Really?

Eddie: Thought that might impress you.

FA man: Well, we wanted to make sure that there wouldn't be any recurrence of any, you know . . .

Eddie: Injuries? No chance. Medical report here.

FA man: Any financial irregularities, actually.

Eddie: I don't know what you're talking about.

FA man: So you wouldn't mind signing a clause saying that if your man, while England manager, gets involved in any nefarious monetary activities, or turns out to have been involved in any in the past . . .

Eddie: Listen. If anyone tries to do the dirty on my man, I think I ought to warn you that we on our side have enough evidence of malpractice at the highest level of football to make at least 15 sensational documentaries. Three of which are already in pre-production.

FA man: Point taken.

Eddie: Of course, there'll be a few details to hammer out later on. Like, the new England shirt to be handled by my man's company. Like . . .

FA man: What do you mean, new England shirt?

Eddie: Same as what Graham Taylor did, when he took over the franchise of the England shirt manufacture and distribution.

FA man: He did no such thing]

Eddie: Didn't he? Blimey, he was a worse manager than I thought.

FA man: Anything else we haven't thought of?

Eddie: Yes. I want a clause in the contract saying that the FA will at no time express complete confidence in my boy if and when he becomes manager. It's the instant prelude to the chop.

FA man: Fair enough. Will you take a cheque?

Eddie: Used tenners, if you don't mind.

FA man: That's going to take time to organise.

Eddie: I can wait.

FA man: It'll mean days and days of the papers saying that the FA can't make up its mind.

Eddie: I can stand that.

FA man: OK. See you here in five days?

A small party of businessmen led by a smart-looking City financier comes to the table.

Financier: Excuse me, gents, I'm expecting to meet a deputation from the Mirror and Independent to hammer out a few details . . .

Eddie: Not us, mate.

Financier: Excuse me, I'm sure. They wander on.

Eddie: Tell you what - why don't we choose somewhere quieter next time?