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The heartening thing about Roman Abramovich’s latest business coup is that with the $9bn he has picked up from the sale of his oil interests (and not to mention the small change he had rattling around in his pocket previously) he can now afford to buy every club in the English football league. As a vital matter of “hearts and minds”, he should immediately do so.
It was hardly worth winning the cold war for seeing all that money of his going to Chelsea alone. If he could spread his resources across the footballing board, it would prove an act of philanthropy beloved of the system under which we choose to live.
The famed “barons” of nineteenth and twentieth century US business - the Carnegies, Rockefellers, Morgans and others - appeased their consciences and made us all love them by sinking their money into good works when they felt they had made too much of it for any one family to possess.
I have no doubt that since he began as a boy, an orphan even, selling western jeans on the street, all Mr Abramovich’s business has been upfront and legitimate, and he made his own luck by falling in with influential people. But it is fair to say that he remains unloved, if not within lurching distance of Fulham Broadway tube station, then across the nation.
Now is the time for him to win us all over. In the event of his taking this advice, the Premiership could be renamed the Abramovichship. To this might be added “Division One”, whereupon the others below would return to the numerical order of old and the present confusing array of divisional names abandoned.
In the event of his not taking this advice, all rival clubs in the English top division should put out only their reserve teams when they play Chelsea. We had barely awoken from beneath Ashes euphoria to discover that Chelsea had won the 2005/6 Premiership within hours of it starting, so a measure of dignified scorn is called for.
* It was good to see Roger Federer’s unbounded elation at Switzerland putting paid to Britain’s hopes in the Davis Cup at the weekend. The first question to come to mind was how long might it be before the fascination palls and other commitments keep him from playing in such a quaint international competition. But where there’s quirkiness there’s hope and Federer and the Swiss have proved they possess the quality - viz their presenting him with a cow (highly valued in chocolate-making Switzerland) when he first won Wimbledon, and his feeling honoured to receive it. With luck, he’ll see the spirit in playing Davis Cup for sometime yet.
* Every Saturday morning at 10am I could use hearing a bit of sport on radio but am reminded that I really don’t want to turn to Radio Five Live to get it. It hasn’t been the same since Adrian Chiles left for television last year and I have never been able to convince myself that his replacement Eamonn Holmes knows anything about sport. On the BBC website he claims he has a passion for it but in practice this doesn’t get much beyond the fact that he supports Manchester United. Take his recent contribution to Celebrity Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Gloria Hunniford had him as her phone-a-friend and thought he was a cert to answer a sports question when it came up. I won’t say it was easy to know for certain that the discipline associated with Katy Sexton was swimming, despite her striking backstroke gold in the World Championships two years ago, a rare medal-winning triumph for Britain in the pool of late. But Holmes’ joyous shout in response of “100 per cent certain, never heard of her” displayed a shocking ignorance. This is an issue of public importance since almost certainly the BBC licence fee is funding an enormous amount to have Holmes on the Five Live show, and all for the sake of a bit of “celebrity”.
* BBC Sport’s Gary Imlach is one of many who could do a far better job, far more cheaply, but has lately been engaged on producing a memoir about his father, the former Nottingham Forest and Scotland left winger Stewart Imlach. The essence of the book - described by sportswriter Brian Glanville as a “furiously disenchanted memoir” - is his coming to terms with what his late father did, and how he, Imlach junior, didn’t quite grasp it at the time. Imlach senior’s generation was those footballers who were there at the moment of change from the time of the old £20 maximum wage, but who were a little too old to cash in. Then from being stars every week, they declined into lives of odd-jobs, a pub or tobacconists maybe, but nothing that was just reward for the status they had once had in their local communities. I recall Imlach very well. He was part of the Forest team that won the 1959 Cup Final against Luton. For pub quiz freaks, it was that occasion when Elton John’s uncle Roy Dwight scored Forest’s first goal, then broke his leg and was stretchered off to watch the rest of the game on a hospital television (along with other viewing patients who weren’t aware who he was). I won an old laced football (a new technologically state-of-the-art matchball at the time) from a TV rental shop in Upper Street, Islington, for guessing the 2-1 final score, to the annoyance of my Bedfordshire uncles who were all Luton supporters. Having got his winners’ medal Imlach went on to play for Luton, then dropped down the divisions to Coventry and Crystal Palace. I still have his pictures in old albums, which I’d have stared at for hours at the time. I was disappointed to find when I looked at them again recently that I never managed to get any of them signed outside the stations, hotels or grounds I used to hang around for the purpose.
* Something that was big at that time was tandem cycling, though I suspect it rather died out with post-war ideas of filling your lungs with air and exercise and going on holiday to Butlins, Clacton. But it has been revived in theatrical form by the theatre group Couch Potato Productions, two of whose members are currently cycling by tandem across the US to raise funds for their next production. They financed their last one, Biloxi Blues, by walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End. I express an interest because my stepson is in the van tagging along with them as support vehicle. He may be called on for the occasional stage should crotch rot, or other such ailments associated with the ancient art, afflict the main riders. Last I heard they were traversing Virginia and peddling for the North Carolina line.
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