All right, this madness is just mine. But remember when things actually happened in the transfer window? Remember when we were newly installed in a 60,000 seater stadium and it still seemed like yesterday when we last won a trophy? Remember when David Dein wheeled and dealed on our behalf? Let me take you back to the time when Ashley became Cashley.
This is from The Gooner issue 168 (and the first draft was the only thing the Editor ever told me to rewrite because of the amount of libel in it).
(Any resemblance to actual events or real people is entirely coincidental. It bears no relation to anything that really happened.
But don’t you wish it did . . . )
Ashley yawned and stretched. The black silk sheets flowed over him like inky Evian as he reached for the mobile. Damn, he’d left it on vibrate again and missed three calls from Jonathan. Two neurons in his footballer’s brain tried to spark a connection – how did you retrieve messages? It was no good. He would ask thingy. He looked over the vast acreage of fluffy pillows and teddy bears. The bears stared unblinkingly and uncomprehendingly back like a Premier League enquiry panel, but their owner wasn’t there. He listened hard and made out the sounds of gargling and vocal warm-up exercises. It would be some time . . .
London N5. David was on the phone. “Si, si, Pascal Cygan. You want him? We have many defenders, si, tenemos màs. No, no, it’s a different Cygan. This one was one of the famous ‘back four’. In fact he was two of them, he’s that good. Shall we say £2 million? Gracias, gracias, a pleasure Seňor. Yes, on the first plane. Ciao.” David allowed a smile to settle on his face and ticked off number one on the ‘to do’ list.
With thingy still in the bathroom, Ashley was frantic. He’d dressed on his own – cream Armani with snakeskin accessories – but he’d put his trousers on back to front and couldn’t work out how to do his belt up. He’d missed another two calls from Jonathan – each time the phone had lit up he’d panicked and pressed the button to end the call.
West London. Peter sat and stared at figures that wouldn’t add up. His five-year break-even plan had foundations of nothing but piss and wind. The season ticket renewal figures mocked him. It was costing more to advertise tickets than the extra sales brought in. The bin contained several letters from touts demanding lower prices. He wiped a square of satin across his shiny brow and round his too-tight collar. He knew they couldn’t afford the £25 million for Ashley, and the Russian boss wouldn’t like that.
Down the corridor Jose drew formation after formation on a pad of heavyweight Basildon Bond: 4-5-1, 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 3-5-2. His brain was in meltdown. Meu Deus, they all required more defenders than Peter said were necessary! A shower of dandruff adorned the desk as he ran manicured fingers through the crew cut. He glanced at the screen showing the Arsenal-cam output. David and his Chairman laughed as they examined a wallchart of projected attendances. Could that be right? No chance of winning anything and they expected that many fans? He banged his tiny fist on the desk, making the dandruff dance. He had to get Ashley, just to show them!
Jonathan lounged in his Bentley as his chauffeur nosed the car through the London traffic. The phone rang: “Mr B, it’s Cashley, I mean Ashley,” squeaked the distant voice. Jonathan paused before responding. It took several seconds for thoughts to register with Ashley anyway. And with his clients, a second longer on the thought process meant an extra zero on his own bank balance. He’d have to keep the blonde’s hand-made nose out of his contracts, but that was for another day. “Ash, so she’s out of the bathroom? Listen, Jose’s hooked like a maggot. I’ll sort the figures out with the Arse. Then I’ll talk to your current employers. You’re on your way! And I’m looking at a fat cut,” he added, slightly louder than he meant to. “What’s that Mr B?” squeaked the phone. “I said I just saw Wayne Rooney outside,” said Jonathan, thinking fast. “Right Mr B. Catch you la’er, wicked. Chezza, how do you switch this off?”
Jonathan hit a number on the speed dial. “Peter, we said 90 a week, plus my cut, right? I know you can’t do 25, give them William – Jose hates him anyway. Don’t worry, I’ll sign it. I have power of attorney for him. I keep his wife if he defaults, too.” Jonathan roared at his own joke, which ironically was also true. Peter joined in half-heartedly. His mind raced. Could this be a way out of the cash(ley) hole? It required fast talking with Jose, but unlike the boss Jose didn’t have henchmen with biceps the size of Belarus. His head pounded. He pressed the intercom button. “Cynthia, some more Nurofen and an appointment with the boss – now!”
David replaced the receiver and spun to face the aquiline Frenchman. “William’s part of the offer. I said we’d think about it.” They both smiled. Cygan checked in at Heathrow, the homesick Spaniard being bundled into a cab downstairs as they spoke, the Beast packing a suitcase in Madrid, and now Peter sounding a tad desperate. “If this carries on I’ll be starting to think it’s April fool’s day,” said David. “How do you think Villarreal will be feeling this time next week,” quipped his companion. David took the phone off the hook. “Let’s make them sweat.” They clinked glasses and David dealt another hand of canasta.
Jonathan had been sweating for ages. Without this deal he’d have to cancel the order for the Lear. Worse, Ashley wouldn’t trust him and he’d have to spend months buying the twerp’s confidence again. He shuddered at the thought of sucking up to the blonde to get back in Ashley’s good books. He wouldn’t mind having the blonde – no, he put the thought away and pressed dial for the hundredth time. The regular beeps he got in return seemed to be laughing at him. What the hell was David playing at?
The Cuban cigar smoke drifted over the plush Axminster in David’s office. If the place wasn’t just built David would have sworn the flooring was thick enough to hide a Japanese soldier. The Frenchman laid his cards. David jotted the score and reached for the Glenmorangie.
Peter glanced nervously at Boris and Oleg, the boss’s minders. The boss had liked his plan but Jose had gone ballistic. Claimed that without William he’d be forced to play 2-7-1. Peter had to bluff him with threats of what Oleg and Boris might do. But now they wouldn’t answer the phone in N5. What the hell? He tried to look casual under the impassive gaze of the giant Siberians, as he nervously prodded David’s number into the phone again.
“Time to do business,” said David, replacing the phone receiver. “Oh, we’ve missed some calls,” he added, unconcerned. “You’ll be happy with William and five?” “Does Dennis merde himself on planes?” replied the Frenchman.
A conference call in progress: “So that’s agreed, we get William and £6 million, you get Ashley,” said David. The West London contingent muttered assent. In his Bentley Jonathan licked his lips and checked the sums once more. His lucky day: there were more noughts than a Spurs away campaign. “That’s it then, gentlemen,” continued David. “Joint statement to be issued immediately. Goodnight.” Click. In N5 David and the Frenchman clinked glasses again. “Suckers!” they chorused.
In the Bentley Jonathan kissed his calculator. “Suckers!”
In West London the boss clapped the nervous Peter on the back. “Suckers!”
“B*stards!” said Jose.
The final participant fiddled with his handset and an unheard voice squeaked out into the ether: “Chezza, how do you switch this off?”