Let's hear it for Norway and the Gooners
George Graham, as you must have read, is off scouting in Europe. He is looking for new talent, fresh faces, enthusiasts who will do a job for him, knock themselves out for the team, be loyal and supportive, through thick and thin, will follow all the tactics, all the routines, sing to the same song sheet, be upbeat all the time, obey every instruction.
Nothing new there, then. Every manager is looking for such people. The only difference with Graham is that, on this occasion, thanks to the season he's been having, he is looking for some rather special performers. The reference to song sheet - that could be a little clue.
As he goes about his scouting, he's got the full backing of Alan Sugar. Sugar says he can spend whatever it takes. Just as long as he comes back with the goods, performers who will do the business.
I am reminded of that meeting in October 1869, when James Gordon Bennett, the proprietor of the New York Herald and the origin of a well-known exhortation, summoned his ace reporter, Henry Morton Stanley, to his suite at the Grand Hotel in Paris.
"I want you to go and find Dr Livingstone," said Gordon Bennett. David Livingstone, one of the heroes of the time, was lost somewhere in Central Africa, presumed dead by many people, including Stanley, who observed that he doubted if Livingstone could be found.
"I want him found," said Bennett. "Draw a thousand pounds now. When you have gone through that, draw another thousand. When that's spent, draw another thousand. And so on. But find Livingstone."
I report that conversation exactly, because Stanley himself later recorded it. As for what Alan Sugar told Graham last week, I wasn't privy. But I venture to hazard a guess at what Sugar roughly said:
"Listen, you bastard Graham. I want you to get off your fat Scottish arse, get out there and find a new crowd. I'm fucking pig sick of the Spurs fans, getting at me all the time. I've had enough. I'm banning all of them, giving them back their soddin' season tickets. So you better find me some replacements by the next home game. Bung them one thousand each, 'scuse language, throw in a new Amstrad, whatever it takes. Just find them. Or you're fucking sacked as well. Now piss off . . ."
I've had to tone the language down a bit. Dear Alan, who began life selling items from the back of his van, is not normally so polite and charming.
So, Graham is at this moment holding secret trials, hoping to sign 10,000 suitable Scandinavians. Why Scandinavia, you ask? Well, partly because of Sven Goran Eriksson, working on the same principle: who cares where they come from, as long as they can do the business? And partly because Spurs, like Arsenal, have always had a strong Scandinavian following.
They come over every week, buy all the tat in the club shops, wear the stupid hats, cheer every stupid player, and speak excellent English. Well, almost. It was Norwegian fans shouting "Gooners" for "Gunners" that started the Arsenal fans off. Now, even one of their fanzines calls itself The Gooner.
Graham has had a week with the trialists. One day it was shouting, "Yiddoes Yiddoes Yiddoes", followed by one day singing, "Come on, you lily-whites"; two days on, "We all agree, George Graham is magic"; and three days on, "Stand up if you love Alan Sugar". He's the chairman.
David Pleat, Stewart Houston and all the other coaching staff are out there, working their furry socks off - that's those funny-looking things the TV people put over their mikes to reduce wind interference and increase audibility. Already, they've got 10,000 Scandinavian Big Issue sellers sounding like a 50,000 Kop.
Mark Curtin, the club doc, is also there. He'll be doing medical checks, voice tests, throat analysis, measuring Pavlovian reflexes. Then the lawyers will get to work on the contracts. The basic wage is £1,000 a season, but, as with players, bonuses can be much greater. There will be extra for a win, for decibels over a certain level, plus double bonus in away games for outshouting, outsinging, outswearing the home crowd.
Each member of the new crowd will be put up in a club house in Tottenham (the best part), have a sponsored club car, and will get a 50 per cent discount on all items in the club shop. In the case of the Darren Anderton cockerel-crested doctors and nurses set, a 90 per cent discount. For some reason, that's been a poor seller this year - but who knows, he might be sick again soon and they could be sold out by Christmas.
The only problem so far is that quite a few of the more streetwise members of the crowd - those who have actually sold copies of the Big Issue - have got themselves agents. They are demanding signing-on fees. All the same, Sugar reckons it will be a bargain. For an outlay of only £10m, which is less than Rebrov cost, he'll get a crowd who get behind the team for every minute of every match, home and away, regardless of how the team plays. That must be worth at least ten points a season. Rubbish players will begin to think, heh, I can't be all that bad, the crowd loves me. They'll play better and their value will go up.
The present shitty Spurs crowd, according to Sugar, is losing them millions by booing the team, making rubbish players play rubbisher, until they become unsellable. Ben Thatcher was worth £5m when Graham bought him in July: now, no one would give five washers for him. And, needless to say, it's the crowd's fault.
Stanley found Livingstone, when everyone thought he was a goner. This could save Graham, when everyone's been thinking he's a Gooner . . .
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