Menu Home

Six of the best

My mate Kevin Kevan is a bit of a rough diamond. But very knowledgeable about the beautiful game and a veritable mine of anecdotal football stories. He has given me permission to reprint an article he did for the Wanderers programme recently. Kev says he is only quoting what he was told but I must apologise in advance for any offence his colourful vernacular might cause.

Six of the best.
Kevin Kevan.

This week I thought I’d focus on managers. They are the much maligned focal point of most teams and to most of us, mad as mongooses to be doing the job. Unless you’re Alex Ferguson or (more surprisingly) Arsene Wenger your tenure can be short-lived and you cop all the flak, even in games you win. But win, draw, sacked or un-sacked they are the source of some of the best stories. I could give you some juicy stuff on some of the local Kiwi coaches but me legal advisor told me I’d be better off focusing on a few of the English gaffers. “They won’t be reading this” he said. So here are six of the best. My missus reckons my footie stories are more fake than a Donny Trump tweet but who knows, some of these might even be factual.
(Editors note: these are mostly real stories but to avoid future litigation please take at least one of Kevan’s tales with a large grain of salt).

1. The Messy boss.

No, not the Barcelona manager, but a lower tier English team boss, a good mate of mine. He had a messy car, so untidy that he actually lost his keys in it and despite pawing through the Big Mac wrappers and assorted other rubbish he couldn’t find them. Luckily it was one of those cars that starts remotely via a start button as long as the key is in the car so he was driving it for 6 months without actually needing to locate the lost key. Only problem is that he couldn’t lock the car and he eventually had to go to a scouting trip to Liverpool. You know what happened. Before you could say ‘scallywag’ his motor has been tea-leafed from outside a Merseyside newsagents and he thought it was gone forever. But it wasn’t. He told me “I taxied to my destination, and as fate would have it, there it was, parked outside the training ground. There was no crowd there, just the players having a training match, so it must have been one of those little b****ds.” He never figured out which player actually took it so he didn’t sign up the fella he’s gone to look at in case it was him. “When I got home I gave the car a good clear-out and found that sodding key.”

2. Roy Keane

Keano and I were having a chat one night. He told me about the time he thought about signing Robbie Savage. “I rang Mark Hughes. Robbie [Savage] wasn’t in the Blackburn team and I asked Mark if we could try to arrange a deal. Sparky said: ‘Yeah, yeah, he’s lost his way here but he could still do a job for you.’ Robbie’s legs were going a bit but I thought he might come up to us [at Sunderland], with his long hair, and give us a lift – the way Yorkie [Dwight Yorke] had, a big personality in the dressing room. Sparky gave me permission to give him a call. So I got Robbie’s mobile number and rang him. It went to his voicemail: ‘Hi, it’s Robbie – Whazzup!’ like the Budweiser ad. I never called him back. I thought: ‘I can’t be f****g signing that.’”


Roy Keane –  “I can’t be signing that.”

3. Messi’s youth coach

This story IS about the actual Messi. I play poker online with his former youth coach. He always tells a story, probably apocryphal, about how he got Messi to make headers. He prefaces the story saying that little Messi was a really picky eater, but he eventually figured out that Messi had a weakness for alfajores (a lethally delicious confection made of cookies, sometimes covered in chocolate).

First he started rewarding Messi for all his goals with the treats, but Messi was quickly eating way too many to be healthy for an athlete of any age. But the coach knew that Messi wouldn’t score a goal with his head, so he switched it so Messi could only get a treat, but this time two of them, if he made a header. Next game, Messi dribbles through everyone, goes up the goal, stops, chips up the ball and heads in — and then looks right at the coach and holds up two fingers.

4. Harry Redknapp

He told me how he missed out on signing Ian Wright and signed Carl Richards instead: “I bought Carl for £10,000, went to pick him up from Enfield and while he went in to say goodbye to his manager, he left me with his mate. ‘What are you signing him for?’ said this kid. ‘I’m 10 times better than him. I’ve got 26 goals this season, he’s only got 12. I’m different class than him. Why don’t you sign me?’ I was worried. ‘I can’t buy you, I’m buying him,’ I told Carl’s mate, ‘but I’ll keep an eye out for you, don’t worry.’”
“So we took Carl and he was absolutely useless. He could run, but that was about it. We played about six games, couldn’t win one, he was terrible. After about four games of this, he came to see me. ‘I’ve got a mate,’ he said. ‘He was the fellow you talked to at Enfield that day. He’s asking if he could have a trial. He’s a striker, like me.’ ‘And is he as good as you, Carl?’ I asked, suspiciously. ‘No, he’s not as good as me,’ he said, ‘but he’s decent.’ ‘Well, tell him not to f***ing bother then,’ I snapped, and that was the end of it.

The following Saturday, we went to play Crystal Palace. ‘My mate, the one who wanted a trial, he’s playing for Palace today,’ said Carl. Oh good, I thought. No problem there then. Anyway, three goals later I realised Carl wasn’t much of a scout, either. His mate’s name? Ian Wright, who went on to score 238 league goals.”

5. The Fantasist.

I know a certain English manager who thought he’d show how clued up he was by playing Fantasy Football, the platform that all us plebs pretend to be managers by picking players in a team and scoring points based on how well those players do in actual games. A real Premiership manager would be pretty good at this huh? Nah, this fella was rubbish. It got the stage where he dropped his own player to help his fantasy cause. He’d selected one of his own strikers in his fantasy team and made him captain that week ( the captain gets double points).

They were playing on the Sunday. On Saturday his fantasy vice-captain, (Defoe) scored 4 goals for Spurs and earned a whopping point tally. The manager dropped his star striker on the Sunday and by not playing him, Defoe automatically got the captaincy of his fantasy team and earned him double points. The manager was sacked by his real club a week later.

6. Brian Clough.

This episode takes place at the house of Alan Hill, Clough’s assistant, in June 1991. Dean Saunders describes the scene, with “the best garden you have ever seen”, waiting in the lounge to discuss a potential £2.9m move. Archie Gemmill was there too. They waited then, finally, the knock at the door. “Green sweatshirt, white shorts, white socks, blotchy cheeks,” Saunders recounted.
Saunders continues, “I stand up, I was a bit nervous – it’s Brian Clough. ‘Young man, nice to see you.’ He looks at Kevin, my agent – doesn’t even shake his hand. ‘Son, can I speak to you or do I have to speak to him to speak to you?’ I said: ‘You can speak to me, Mr Clough.’ He went: ‘Thank you, son, because I don’t really like talking about football in front of him – he’s a fat b****d’”
Everything starts to get a bit weird. “We sit down,” Saunders said, “and he walks to the opposite end of the house and sits on the chair with his nose about an inch from the wall, looking at the wall. He doesn’t say anything for about a minute – just staring at the wall.”
Eventually, Clough slides off his chair, down to the floor and on to his knees. “I’m thinking: ‘What th’? ’” Saunders says. “I can’t believe what’s going on. A British record transfer, this is supposed to be …” Clough starts crawling on his hands and knees to where his prospective new signing is sitting. “At this point I started to work out he might be drunk.

While crawling, he stops, looks at the carpet and goes ‘Hilly, I like your carpet, son, where did you get that from?’ ‘Carpet-Right’, was the response. Clough says, ‘How much?’ Hill replies, ‘£12.99 a square yard.’ Clough, ‘My Barbara would love that carpet – good choice, Hilly, son.’ ”
“It goes on ages, this story,” Saunders told us. “It’s hilarious.” Clough calls the agent ‘fatso’ again. He goes into the garden and takes one of the flower pots – “the best pot you’ve ever seen with flowers spilling out” – and rips out the entire lot to present to his prospective new signing. Then, one thing leading to another, Clough starts using the flowers as a pretend microphone, persuading Saunders to join him singing Chicago by Frank Sinatra.

It is left to Archie Gemmill, according to Saunders, to make Forest’s financial offer, hampered by regular Clough interruptions (strange in itself when Gemmill is only the first-team coach), and Saunders agrees to consider it.

All parties depart, when the Saunders finally gets home, head spinning, it is to a strange sight. He walks in finds his wife inside the door, with her finger to her lips, making a shush gesture. Saunders : “He’s only sat in my lounge,” he says, “with the pot from the garden, and his arm around my mother-in-law. Honest to God..”


Clough – “My Barbara would love that carpet – good choice, Hilly, son.”


Categories: Other Football Topics

Rod de Lisle

Waikato based Kiwi living the good life that this wonderful country affords. I like to paint, travel, follow sport and do stuff with our large family. Writing song lyrics is a creative release that came about after (somehow) dreaming a complete song. Not being a muso has lead me to seek out creative musicians who might enjoy linking music to my words. Is that you?

1 reply

  1. Some great tales in there. I am reminded of Bobo Balde, the Guinean footballer who used to play for Celtic. He had a great contract for Scottish football – £35,000 a week, plus a £500,000 loyalty bonus if he stayed until the end of his contract. Balde eventually fell out of favour and was lucky to get a game with the reserves, so Peter Lawwell, the chief executive of Celtic, tried to get him to accept a transfer that would most likely have seen him get a regular game for his new club, but involved a significant wage cut. Apparently Balde said, “Mr Lawwell, you are the chief executive of Celtic Football Club, so you must do what is in the best interests of Celtic Football Club. However, I am the chief executive of Bobo Balde, so I don’t want the transfer.” He left a year later with the loyalty bonus.

%d bloggers like this: