Danny’s the champion of the world (in Carlisle, at least)

"Come on, Danny!" I shouted - nay, screamed - loud enough to frighten all the Herdwick sheep in the field and disturb the lady novelist upstairs, not that she was writing anything (she always says she's just playing).

“DAH-NEE!" I screamed.

My wife came into my TV room, wondering if I was watching George Harrison's son playing in some group. "That's Dhani," I said. "I am watching Danny, Danny Graham, the one and only, our hero and saviour. Come on, Danny, give us a goal!"

“But it's Swansea City v Sunderland," she observed, astutely - you have to be when, up on the top left, they just put "SWA" and "SUN", which could well mean that Swaziland were playing Sunday Island.

(I used to long for Farnborough Town to play Arsenal. At the top of the screen, it would have said "FAT ARS".)

“I didn't know you supported Swansea," she said. "Are you suddenly Welsh?"

“Could well be," I said. My Davies is spelled the proper, pedigree Welsh way, not like those phoneys called Davis, whose forebears probably changed their name from Davinski or O'Davy when they got off the boat. I am Scottish, however, and was brought up in Carlisle. The family legend is that our Davies changed sides at Waterloo in 1815 - no, not joining the French but, instead of going home to Wales, he became a batman to the Duke of Argyll.

One of the reasons for shouting for Danny was that he didn't seem to be in the game. For about 20 minutes, he hadn't had a touch, and when eventually he did, he missed another goal. Later, Match of the Day made a feature of him not scoring.

Poor Danny. He's still to score for Swansea after three games in the Premiership; but last season, playing for Watford in the Championship, he scored loads.

He was bought by Swansea in the summer for £3.5m (a vast sum, in Swansea terms) to score goals and keep them up in the Prem - well, for a bit, anyway. Let's hope he breaks his duck in their next game, against Arsenal. The main reason for cheering Danny, though, encouraging him on, was gratitude. I don't suppose many armchair Prem fans are aware of his background or how he got to Watford. Gather round.

Bottoms up

Danny Graham, now aged 26, born in Gateshead, started off quite well, playing for the England under-20s, but he never made the grade at Middlesbrough, and drifted on to Darlington, Derby, Leeds and Blackpool. He was a striker who never seemed to strike.

It was during his two years playing for Carlisle United, between 2007 and 2009, that he found form - or got knocked into shape, so Carlisle fans like
to think - scoring goals galore. It encouraged Watford to come along and offer . . . nothing.

The situation was complicated, because of his age and the intricacies of the Bosman rulings. Watford eventually upped their offer to £25,000. Carlisle went to a Football League tribunal, argued their case for decent compensation and ended up with £350,000. And clever old Carlisle, as well as getting a half-decent payment, also managed to get it agreed that they would get 15 per cent of Watford's profit on any further transfer. So, when Danny moved to Swansea this summer, Carlisle secured an unexpected windfall of around £450,000.

Not much to a Prem club that spends that much on smoked salmon for the directors' lounge, or a Prem player who spends the same on his wife's second car, but it is a massive amount for a little club such as Carlisle in League One, trying to subsist on gates of 5,000. Such clubs have to hope, each season, for something unexpected to happen to balance the books: a good Cup run, say, which Carlisle has had for the past few seasons.

That can't be relied upon. Yet now, with just a few weeks of the season gone, Carlisle already know that they will end the season in the black. Thanks to Danny Graham.

“So, come on, Danny!"

“Will you stop shouting that?"

“I am making a moral statement, pet. In football, as in so many other fields, life at the bottom so often depends on life at the top."

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 12 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron vs the shires

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David Cameron’s speech: a hymn to liberalism from a liberated PM

The Prime Minister spoke with the confidence of a man who finally has a full mandate for his approach. 

At every one of his previous nine Conservative conference speeches, David Cameron has had to confront the doubters. Those Tories who rejected his modernisation of the party from the start. Those who judged it to have failed when he fell short of a majority in 2010. Those, including many in his own party, who doubted that he could improve on this performance in 2015. Today, rather than confronting the doubters, he was able to greet the grateful. As the first majority Conservative prime minister for 18 years, he rightly savoured his moment. "Why did all the pollsters and pundits get it so wrong?" he asked. "Because, fundamentally, they didn't understand the people who make up our country. The vast majority of people aren't obsessives, arguing at the extremes of the debate. Let me put it as simply as I can: Britain and Twitter are not the same thing." Labour should pin that line to its profile. 

With a full mandate for his approach, Cameron went on to deliver his most unashamedly liberal speech to date. Early on in his address, he spoke with pride of how "social justice, equality for gay people, tackling climate change, and helping the world's poorest" were now "at the centre of the Conservative Party's mission". A lengthy section on diversity, lamenting how "people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names", was greeted with a standing ovation. Proof, if needed, of how Cameron has changed his party beyond recognition. The former special adviser to Michael Howard, who avowed that "prison works", told his audience that prison too often did not. "The system is still not working ... We have got to get away from the sterile lock-em-up or let-em-out debate, and get smart about this." From now on, he declared, the system, would "treat their [prisoners'] problems, educate them, put them to work." 

There were, of course, oversights and lacuna. Cameron reaffirmed his commitment to a budget surplus but glossed over the unprecedented, and many believe undeliverable, that will be required to achieve it (and which may fail to do so). He hailed the new "national living wage" with no mention of the tax credit cuts that will leave the same "strivers" worse off. His "affordable" starter homes will be unaffordable for average-earning families in 58 per cent of local areas. But it is a mark of Cameron's political abilities that it was easy to forget much of this as he spoke. Like George Osborne, he deftly appropriated the language of the left ("social justice", "opportunity", "diversity", "equality") to describe the policies of the right. Cameron is on a mission to claim ownership of almost every concept associated with Labour. The opposition should not sleep easily as he does so. 

There was little mention of Labour in the speech, and no mention of Jeremy Corbyn by name. But when the attack came, it was ruthlessly delivered. "Thousands of words have been delivered about the new Labour leader. But you only really need to know one thing: he thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a 'tragedy'". The description of Corbyn as the "new Labour leader" shows the Tories' ambition to permanently contaminate the party, rather than merely the man.

There are plenty of potential landmines ahead for Cameron. The comically lukewarm applause for his defence of EU membership was a reminder of how divided his party is on this issue. But today, he spoke as a man liberated. Liberated by winning a majority. Liberated by not having to fight an election again. Like a second-term US president, he was able to speak of how he was entering "the second half of my time in this job". Tributes to Osborne (the "Iron Chancellor) and Boris Johnson (greeted with a remarkable standing ovation) alluded to the contest to come. But whoever succeeds him can be confident of assuming a party in good health - and more at ease with the modern world than many ever thought possible. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.