Humble Pie With a 7-1 Defeat

Originally written for and published on http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk in December 2010

Humble pie with 7-1 defeat

One Saturday morning in 2005, Blackburn were playing at Old Trafford and on a hung-over whim, I decided to go to the game on my own and buy a ticket for the United end.

In what I had previously perceived to be one of the harbingers of the Apocalypse, Blackburn won. Being a solitary Blackburn fan amongst all the furious United fans I stayed silent with a smug grin on my face.

Flash forward 5 years and I’m en route to a repeat of this fixture, this time at the hospitality of Manchester United for the VIP Europa Suite experience. In my previous forays into football fan espionage, this would be the furthest behind enemy lines I’d ventured.

I arrived at Directors Entrance where I was to be greeted by a club representative. As the other media guests arrived I was immediately outed as a Blackburn fan having forgotten that I’d admitted it in an email when making arrangements. With my cover blown, I was forced into plan B; adopt the guise of affable fan of the plucky underdogs fully expecting a heavy defeat. Little did they know that I’d secretly put a tenner on a Rovers’ victory that morning.

We were taken through the tunnel for a pitch side tour. As we stood in front of the United dug out, the guide treated us with an encyclopaedic knowledge of every possible fact about the ground, most notably that just below the away stand, United have a selection of cells for any wayward fans to be kept before being taxied to the police station after the match. We were advised that these were very seldom used.

It was then to the Europa Suite, a huge room laden with tables beautifully set out for the pre-match meal. The food itself was very good, four courses interspersed with helpful waitresses seemingly intent on getting me drunk. I shan’t fall foul of your ploy to soften me with drink, I figured, as I sunk my fourth glass of wine.

There was all sorts of entertainment put on with a compere, a pub-style quiz in which we performed abysmally. Just before we took to the stands, Gary Neville arrived, bizarrely through the gents toilets, to pose for photographs for all the adoring fans…. and me. Then it was time to take to our seats, with a great view adjacent to the half way line. A fantastic place to view a smash and grab Blackburn win.

Berbatov loves Blackburn Rovers

berbatov

Ok, bit of a nervy start but I think…GOAL. Berbatov.

Ah. Well not a great start but at least..GOAL. 2-0.

With each of my fellow guests greeting each goal with a wry smile my way, I respectfully applauded whilst my confidence began to wilt away like ice in a kettle.

Well if we just get to half time 2 down then we can….GOAL. 3-0.

The only solace I took was that after each United goal, a secondary cheer from the home fans greeted one Blackburn supporter after another being forcefully ejected by police and taken down to the previously under-used cells. By half time it was 3-3 by my reckoning; 3 goals to them, 3 arrests for us.

Back to the suite for half time drinks where our preferred tipple had been laid out at our tables waiting for us, a lovely touch. In search of alcoholic reprieve, I sank my pint in less time than it took United to score another immediately after we’d retaken our seats. Big Sam obviously gave an epic half time speech.

Goal after goal passed by with my seated ironic applause as Rovers capitulated until the score board taunted me with the 7-0 scoreline. No more arrests either. With 8 minutes remaining, I joked that we could just score one goal per minute to grab an unlikely victory and ALAS, in came a corner as Samba rose to nod in at the near post. My loud jumping celebration would, under normal circumstances, earn me abuse at the very least, but the prawn sandwich brigade merely looked on with pitying smiles.

Back to the Europa Suite I trundled for post match refreshments, which equated to lashings more wine in an attempt to drown my sorrows at the expense of my victorious foes.

Finally, the Man of the Match arrived, again confusingly through the gent’s toilets, as The Count from Sesame Street (Berbatov) posed with fans to celebrate his Premiership record-equalling five goal haul.

My only consoling thought as a Blackburn fan was that at least I’d been well fed and watered as I was thoroughly humiliated. Small mercies maybe, but something to hold onto.

Abramovich’s letter to Watchdog

Copy letter

Dear Watchdog,

Firstly I’ve always been a big fan of the show, your steely, philanthropic crusade to ‘battle for the little guy’ is reassuringly heart-warming and you are undoubtedly the ‘Jim’ll Fix it’ of criminal negligence. Not Nicky Cambell though, he always slightly nauseated me.

Onto business. I am the owner/CEO of a company called Chelsea Football Club, providing football solutions to both the 35-68 Crayfish Ciabatta, and the 18-45 tattooed Lambretta demographics. After ploughing a significant amount of personal capital in transforming my company into a market-leader, I have over the last couple of years, tempered my investment.

I’m not going to lie, I’m not exactly a ‘little guy’ as such, but I have felt the pinch of the global recession as much as any other Tom, Dick and Gary. That was until recently, with growing stakeholder pressure mounting through poor performance in the first 2 quarters of the financial season, I agreed to bankroll an investment of £50m to purchase a Fernando Torres.

With my company long needing a Torres to boost the potency of our market standing and to uplift a beleaguered workforce, I managed to source one from a company called Liverpool Football Club I found in an industry magazine.

Now, as a youngster growing up in rural Russia, my father was an astute businessman who only ever gave me once piece of entrepreneurial advice, which I’ll never forget.  “Roman, there are two types of people in this world who you should never do business with, Cossacks and Scousers, you’ll end up paying through the arse.” he said.

Wary of this, I made my first telephone enquiry to the company they told me they didn’t have any Fernando Torres available, but they did have an N’gog and a couple of Poulson’s. Sensing the opportunity to barter, “even for £50m?” I asked confidently. “er…I’ll av te get the gaffer lad, ang on”. Check. Mate. I felt like Gary Kasparov.

A few moments passed when a rather out-of-breath American gentleman answered the phone “hey there sir, I’m John W Henry, Frank told me all about your generous offer, and I’d like to say we’d be delighted to accept. How would you like your Torres delivered, is helicopter ok?”.

“Well, yes that would be fine. Send us an invoice and we’ll do a BACS transfer tomorrow”. This seemed to easy, I thought, smelling a rat. Nevertheless, the record of the Torres model is unquestionable, so it seemed like a no-brainer. As the popular expression goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it invariably is.

My instincts never usually let me down so I was happy to have done the deal, as were the board, the whole company was buzzing. However, this hysteria turned out to be short lived as upon installation, the Fernando Torres we purchased transpired to be fraudulent dross, allowing those bastards to get the better of us in monthly performance.

I was absolutely furious, as we have shelled out our biggest investment for years on a foppish lesbian looking thing which couldn’t hit a bison’s arse with a BMW.

They said they have posted a receipt, which has never arrived. Their accounts department claim they have no record of my transaction and the invoice number I’ve quoted doesn’t exist. Through stifled laughter, their Finance director advised me that “all of our invoices start with LFC01 lad, so we’ve got no record of MUG50000000”.

I’ve been taken for a ride by these cowboys and I also hear through my network of sources that they are planning to take £45m off rival competitor Manchester United for a ‘blag’ Pepe Reina they picked up in Egypt for £50. They have to be stopped before anyone else can suffer at the hands of these fraudsters.

I look forward to hearing from you to explain in more detail.

Jilted regards,

Roman Douglas Abramovich

P.s. I will offer a reward of £1,000,000 and one Soloman Kalou to anyone who can bring me Damien Commoli’s head in a leather satchel. Put that in your TV show.