The fan - Hunter Davies auctions off his column
I dream of scoring for Spurs, which surely beats scoring with the Queen
One of the good or at least interesting effects of so many league clubs being heavily in debt is that they are being forced to think of new ways of making money. For almost a hundred years, supporters' clubs rallied round, held raffles, ran competitions, sold badges and gave the profits to the club, who were usually totally ungrateful and continued to treat them like dirt. For the past 30 years, clubs themselves have made money by selling their souls to shirt sponsors.
This season, something new has been happening - clubs are starting to sell places in their squad. A 42-year-old salesman has paid £2,000 for Colchester United's number 71 shirt. At Preston North End, a 34-year-old businessman has paid £4,100 to be named as number 64 in their squad - a privilege he secured at an auction. At Notts County, a 53-year-old university worker has bought a squad place for £2,500. What fans get for their money varies, but the squad places are official, with non-contract Football League forms being signed, the player issued with his kit, his name in the programme, allowed to come out with the team and take part in the warm-up.
What fun, what joy. All these years, only child mascots have been allowed to get so close to their heroes. (It's not widely realised that most of the mascots have, in fact, paid a large amount for the honour.)
So far, none of the squad-place purchasers has come on and played. But then, most clubs have squad players who never appear. Leeds has a squad with numbers going up to 50. Newcastle has 45, Man Utd 42, Bolton 41, Fulham 40, Chelsea 39. I look down their squad lists, and they're full of names who might be anybody. Hold on. At number 31 in the Chelsea squad has been lurking Mark Bosnich. Hasn't played for a year, yet must be on £2m. Now wouldn't it be more sensible to sell these spots and make money?
It will happen soon that one of these fans in the squad will actually come on. A sum of £5,000 will probably do it, if just for five minutes at the end. Or, in the case of Carlisle United, 5p might be enough.
For many years, I had a dream where I was at a Spurs match when they were one man short and I came on. And scored. I can't understand these people who dream about being in bed with the Queen. Pathetic. They should grow up.
My knees are not up to it now, I mean for Spurs, not the Queen, but I'd be willing to pay good money to be manager for one match. No club seems to have thought of this yet, though Burnley have got near. When their manager, Stan Ternent, got banned from the touchline, they auctioned his seat on the bench, which went to a fan for £561. It could have been Alastair Campbell. He's daft enough.
It would cost a bit more actually to be manager for the day, to pick the team, give the team talk, bollock them at half-time, throw a few teacups, then give the press interviews afterwards. You could do that. Our tortoise could do that. And by the law of averages, half the time you'd do as well as the professional manager.
This idea could spread to other fields, such as £10,000 to take part in a cabinet meeting. Better, cleaner way of making money than selling honours to dodgy businessmen. Singing on Top of the Pops? Who would ever know the difference? Being a guest on Have I Got News For You? That must be cheap, as guests never get a word in.
But let's not get carried away. Let's stick to football, where fantasies are already being fulfilled. The ultimate dream of any true football fan is to appear here, shooting his or her mouth off. What am I bid for this space next week? Come on, £1,000? OK then, £100. Right, let's see your washers . . .