We stupid fans pay for games we won't see until May 2001

I saw a season ticket flying on to the pitch at the end of Saturday's Spurs match against Aston Villa. Don't talk about it. Getting stuffed 4-2, after being two ahead. I said, don't talk about it. You got cloth ears or what?

It was deeply symbolic, that flying season ticket. Following Spurs this season has been the same as throwing money away. I can only bear it because I look upon Spurs as a charity. It's my good deed, my contribution to helping the deprived , the injured, the incapable of this world.

So am I going to renew it for next year, fork out another £795? Not the way I feel at this moment in time, as of now, as regards to this one. I am particularly pissed off by the speed at which they have demanded next season's money. Every year, it seems to get earlier and earlier.

Manchester United are just the same, trying to con their fans into paying for next season when there were still two months to go of this one. It's true the deadline to renew is 15 May for Man Utd and 19 May for Spurs, but the demand notices came weeks ago, trying to panic us. Spurs haven't, of course, sent a stamped, addressed envelope. They charge you an extra £4.50 to have the Post Office's "Special Delivery Service". Gawd, these so-called top clubs are just so greedy, so grasping.

What it means is that they can be taking in your money five months before you start to get any benefit. In fact, 14 months ahead, in the sense that you might have paid for some seats you won't occupy till May 2001. Can you think of any other business where they can get away with such a nasty, devious trick? We supporters are so craven, so stupid.

Thanks to that Villa defeat, Spurs tumbled down the league. Sorry, I had to mention it again, as there's now no chance they'll end up sixth, as George promised. It could have happened that you paid early to watch Spurs in the Premier Division next season - only to find they were not there. Would the club have compensated any fans who had already paid? Would they, buggery.

Around me at the match, they were shouting "Sugar Out Out Out". Others were wondering if George Graham really was in hospital, or was he perhaps suffering from a diplomatic illness, unable to take it any more. Naturally, I defended George. Nobody would pretend to have rheumatoid arthritis.

I'm writing to George, as he is such a dear friend, to tell him about my experience. I was struck down by the same problem about three years ago. There were times when I couldn't walk (my legs were in such agony) or get any sleep at night (my arms and shoulders being so hellish painful). My GP gave me some anti-inflammatory pills, which did no good. The Royal Free was equally useless. I even tried giving up wine and coffee, and spent a fortune on various stupid herbal nonsenses and potions. You always meet some idiot who swears by them. I even suffered acupuncture. None of them helped. I tried to see if it was worse in wet weather, which is the old wives' theory, but there was no correlation. You don't hear of old husbands' theories, do you? Why is this? 'Cos they all die, I suppose.

I put it down to playing football till I was 50, always getting injured, yet playing on. Or to my having two cartilage ops, both caused by football. All my fault. Now I'm paying for it.

Then a consultant at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle put me on a dose of something called Sulphasalazine. Write it down, George. The effect on me was miraculous. It doesn't, apparently, work for everyone, and you have to have regular blood tests, but I now have no pains. At this moment, anyway, touch wood. I'm off the pills, as well. Tests now show up negative - ie, the arthritis has gone. Hurrah for drugs.

So George, don't give up. I'm sure you'll shake it off. And if you do, I wouldn't come back this season. Keep your head down, sit at home and count your money, play with your football memorabilia, water the new wife, and just hope that Alan Sugar gets fed up and sells out and someone willing to spend some money takes over.

I can't see Sol Campbell staying. I'd be out like a shot, if I were him, straight to Man Utd. I partly blamed him for the Villa debacle. As captain, he should have been rallying the troops, but his head was down as well, his shoulders limp, his voice silent. It wasn't as if Villa were any good. Spurs deserved to be two ahead, till Villa got a jammy penalty. I'd been thinking: what a rubbish team, Chelsea are bound to stuff them in the Cup Final. Then out of nowhere, they got three stunning goals.

What am I doing? I wasn't going to mention that match again. All too sad.

By the way, George, have you heard that the first-ever magazine for people who collect football memorabilia is coming out soon? Football Collector it's called - not a very inspired title. It appears on 18 May, in time for the Cup Final and then Euro 2000. Only a one-off at this stage, but they hope to make it a regular magazine. I knew you'd be pleased, George.

Except this sort of thing will bring more people into collecting football stuff, and the prices will go up for you and me - collecting old Spurs stuff has already cost me a fortune. Why do I bother when they give me so much grief, especially after that performance against Villa, which I'm not talking about. Oh no.

The cheque, of course, is in the post. For my next season ticket. But you'd guessed that, hadn't you . . .

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 24 April 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Are the loonies coming back?

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.