Roman's goose

Don't expect Chelsea's new manager to be a messiah

There is one thing still mystifying me about the arrival of Guus Hiddink at Chelsea. Not his name, because the commentators have decided we are calling him Goose, as in the bird, not Hoose, as in the Scottish for house.

Roman Abramovich will always remain a delicious enigma. Does the club's owner speak English yet? We don't know. He doesn't appear vain, in it for ego, but if it were all just a toy he would have got fed up by now, thrown it out of his cradle. He's obviously weird. At Watford last weekend, he didn't know what to do with his hands or his feelings, clapping and shaking at all the wrong moments while Goose sat impassively. Abramovich looked like a Big Issue seller, taken pity on outside McDonald's and treated to his first-ever game.

I could run on the pitch and mop his brow.

If asked, I could say I was Harry Davies, ex-Stoke star, new deputy assistant sponge technician

But he's brilliant for football, old Roman, bringing us so much entertainment, amusement and food for thought. We now know money can't buy success or happiness, not in football, as we once assumed. But I do feel a bit sorry for him - all that loot unloaded, and all he's got is grief.

He's now given us so much to look forward to. Another messiah, hailed by all, will slowly deflate, become oh so horribly human before our very eyes, while Man United run away with the League.

Any road up, the bit that really baffled me was when Goose turned up for his first training session. You could clearly see that on his Puffa jacket, as worn by all training staff, were the initials G H. How did they do that?

Down in the bowels of Stamford Bridge, elves fresh from Siberia must have been up all night sewing G H on to every conceivable article he might wear during the few months, perhaps just days, he remains as Chelsea gaffer.

It never used to be like this. I have no memory of Bill Nicholson at Spurs' training ground having his initials on his tracksuit top - mainly because he seemed to live in his demob suit. Nor did his assistant Eddie Bailey, the physio Cecil Poynton or the kit man Johnny Wallis. That was the total extent of the training and background staff: four elderly-ish blokes, at a club that won the Double. Now most Prem clubs have about 30 thrusting specialists from a vast array of disciplines: video managers, boffins who measure body water, blokes who park the Ferraris.

No wonder they need their initials on their kit. They wouldn't be able to find them otherwise. Initials also tell them who's who. Must be difficult with all the constant changes.

Remember that joker a few years ago who came out of the crowd wearing the full Man United kit and joined the team in the pre-match photo? I have this fantasy every time I'm at White Hart Lane of buying a club jacket, adding the initials H D, then sitting down on the bench. They have a row of benches these days, to accommodate all the experts. I'd get a brilliant view, hear all the secrets, offer the odd bit of advice. When some big bully had felled Modric, I'd run on the pitch with a sponge and mop his poor brow. No one would notice, not if I had a club jacket with my initials, as long as I wasn't tempted to wave to my wife and children watching on the telly. If asked, I could say I was Harry Davies, ex-Stoke star, new assistant deputy sponge technician.

Hold on; I've got it. I should have thought of it before. We know Abramovich has now started an economy drive. It wasn't elves on the night shift. They're reusing the kit worn by Glenn Hoddle, in charge of Chelsea quite recently. Well, eight months ago...

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.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.