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Manager Me

Monday, 18th March, 2002

Of all the common bonds that join humanity together into something powerfully cohesive, one of the most powerful is the communal watching of sport. The magic of the moment can transcend boundaries of race or religion. Personal differences that hold people warily aloof from each other, if not keep them at each other's throats, can dissipate when something is truly happening. For a heartstopping moment the entirety of creation downshifts into slow motion and then all barriers are down. It's tunnel vision but the whole world is looking down the same tunnel. Then it, whatever it is, happens and the uproar is tangible power. Sometimes the most emotional choirs are found on the terraces and in the pubs. It's orgasm and revelation and religious vision all in one.

I acknowledge all of this, but care nothing for it whatsoever. I can enjoy sport by playing it: give me a badminton racket or a table tennis paddle or a fives glove and I'll submerge myself in friendly competitive action. But watch sport? Nah, I have far better things to do with my time. After the Nagano Olympics, I boasted that the only team I supported was the British women's curling team, but four years on with Salt Lake gold around their necks, my diffidence would be interpreted as opportunism.

So of all the jobs I could take, football club owner would not seem likely to be high up on the list, yet the concept has glued itself to me as if it had been dancing on my face in boots covered in marine epoxy. The idea of not caring in the slightest for organised competitive sport yet becoming an active owner of a professional football club is a bizarre yet highly teasing one. You see, Halifax Town Football Club is for sale, kit and caboodle, and the price is a snip.

Part of this is naturally because we in Halifax can claim for our own the dubious honour of being the consistently worst team in the entire Football League. Asking more than a snip would be a joke and a poor one at that, but I guess they have to ask something. �120,000 is the number that I'm told they came up with, which is a lot of money for the average Joe in the street, but it's nothing for a professional sports team. A lottery winner could pay for it in small change.

The fans can argue amongst themselves about how valid a figure it is and discuss all the ramifications that run behind it, but none of that interests me. I just wonder about how much fun I could have if I had a mere �120,000 in the bank, how much havoc I could wreak and how much subversion I could sow as sole owner of Halifax Town FC.

If I was suddenly gifted the task of running Manchester United I'd have a board and a flock of shareholders to answer to, a worldwide franchise to manage and the hounds of the popular press baying down my neck. One wrong move and I'd be history or worse. But Halifax Town?

As I write they're quite a few points adrift at the bottom of the bottom division of the Football League, a position that they've kept for a few seasons only because the best team in the Vauxhall Conference can't be promoted because their ground isn't up to League requirements. If they can't be promoted up to the League then Halifax can't be relegated back down to the Conference and so the bottom of the League is it.

If it can't get any worse what damage could I do? I could sit happy in the knowledge that whatever insane ideas I conjured up and threw into diabolical motion couldn't make the situation any worse. Last is last, after all. When you're as down as down can be there's nowhere left to fall to. So I could let my imagination truly run riot. Suddenly sport could be fun for me too...

How about these for a few basic ideas to kick things off? If we were expecting to lose anyway, I could field whoever I wanted. Why not put myself on the team? Why not go hog wild and ring up a bunch of mates and ask them if they wanted a kickabout at the weekend? 'Where would we play?' they'd ask. I'd answer, 'Oh, I have a pitch and an opposing team and everything. We're up against Macc Town in the FA Cup. You up for it? I'll throw in beer afterwards. What number do you want to play?'

Lose? Of course we would, and badly, no doubt, but we'd have a heck of a lot of fun doing it. Don't forget that we lose anyway. We might as well enjoy it.

I could give schoolkids the biggest break they could dream of. Never mind the junior school round the corner, c'mon down and play a League game. No, not as the mascot, we need a goalkeeper! I could hold newspaper competitions for a place in the squad for a week. The fans think they could do better? C'mon down. Prove it!

Rather than cunningly hide the fact that we're always last, why not scream it to the media? Why not mount a PR campaign based entirely around the fact that we're always last? Think Jamaican bobsled teams. Think Eddie the Eagle. The possibilities are endless.

Why not field the team dressed in skirts one week? Send out eleven women the next and turn the guys into cheerleaders? Celebrate St Pat's by turning out as leprechauns? Green hair? Play in high heeled boots? Get sponsored by the local dominatrix masseuse outfit? Somewhere along the line the newspapers would take notice and suddenly the team has free publicity. Throw in free fish and chips at half time and the journalists would be happy to show up on a wet and windy weekend afternoon.

The subversion could even turn into something else entirely. One special appearance on They Think It's All Over and people would turn up in person on a Saturday just to see what stunt we'd come up with next. Enough people through the gates and suddenly there's money in the bank. Money translates into the ability to buy decent players and heck, suddenly we've got a chance at not being last any more!

Then even the diehards couldn't complain that I'd turned their beloved team into a joke, because what I'd really have done is turn their beloved joke into a team. They'd give me the keys to the city and I could revel in turning them down.

And sport or no sport, I'd be having the time of my life being the Sultan of Subversion or the Fool of Football or whatever else the papers could come up with. I don't mind being a jester or a clown. It's a lot more fun than watching football.


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