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Time Gentlemen, Please

By Bryan Walker
From Issue 49, Winter 2000

If the racist thugs at Elland Road get sent down in January, it will nicely put the finishing touches to my newly formed prison football team.

We nearly had Bruce Grobbelaar in goal, but thanks to an open verdict (as opposed to the open goals he left during his final year or so at Anfield) it leaves the jail doors open for Andy Gorton of Oldham. Often mistaken for Andy Goram (except in terms of ability), he replaced him when Goram headed north of the border. He was put behind bars for arson - whereas Bruce did not go to jail despite arsing about for years. My prison team wouldn't be short of supporters either, if the Wimbledon coach burners of 1994 were ever found. We'd get more than Everton, especially as their numbers would have been cut dramatically.

Gorton would receive protection (a handy thing in prison) from a back four beginning with Carl Bradshaw, the ex-Sheffield United and Norwich right back who is currently at Wigan Athletic. He was jailed for a Dennis-Wise type assault on a taxi driver. Why Dennis Wise wasn't put away for a Dennis Wise type assault on a taxi driver defies belief, unless you think that justice is only for the rich and powerful. At centre back and captain, who else but Tony Adams? Drink driver and garden wall demolition expert Tony stopped hitting the bars and ended up behind them. Our left back, Garry Croft, was a former Grimsby and Blackburn player who got involved in a car insurance scam. He has just enjoyed promotion to the Premiership with Ipswich Town while sporting an electronic tag. It hampered his movement somewhat, but he could always blame awkward tackles on it. We are still awaiting transfer news regarding Jonathan Woodgate, but in former QPR and Spurs nutcase Terry Fenwick we have excellent back-up - which is a damn sight more than he gave Terry Butcher in Mexico 86.

In midfield, we are spoilt for choice. The snapping, snarling characteristics that we so love in our midfield battlers throughout the years can often be difficult to leave on the football pitch. (Un)fortunately, my team cannot call on the services of Ray Kennedy or Jimmy Case, since neither were put away for their little North Wales fracas. Liverpool's gain was my loss, but I'm not bitter. As with Woodgate, Lee Bowyer stands on the verge of making the biggest move of his career - well, anywhere must be better than Leeds - but the other midfield places can be filled with relative ease.

Speaking of relatives, one place can be filled by Darren Sheridan, currently a teammate of Bradshaw's at Wigan, who was detained at Her Majesty's pleasure for housebreaking. Indeed, the Sheridans of Stretford - brother John, formerly of Leeds (now there's a shock) is the most famous - are, how you say, "notorious" around Old Trafford. Our own Jan Molby did his (triple helping of) porridge in Preston back in 1989 for driving related offences. When he was released, he was smuggled out in the boot of a car to avoid the gathering media. The boot? That must have been a fucking big car!

Everton's Tony Kay took a bundle of notes to 'throw' a football match back in the 60's. Cruel Red types have been known to make comments such as "the current lot must be making a fortune", but not me - honest. Our midfield quartet is completed by Graham Rix, who hit the headlines when he had sex with an underage girl. Great moral crusader Ken Bates threw the book at him and, er, kept his job open for him while he served his time. What a shining example to us all.

Up front, the assault (attack, shurely? - ed) is led by ex-bluenose Duncan Ferguson. Disorderly got four months for head-butting Raith Rovers' John McStay at Ibrox. Liverpool and Celtic fans sang "Hail Hail Big Dunc's in jail, What the fuck do we care? Let the bastard rot there" and many ribs were tickled. Although I have little sympathy for him, it must be said that equally bad assaults have taken place on numerous occasions on the field of play and no one else has been put inside. Shame.

Completing the forward line is one Mickey Thomas. Not our former battling midfield star, but the former blue (for five minutes) and darling of the Stretford End. He lost his liberty for counterfeiting, although I imagine the time that he was stabbed in the arse while shagging someone else's missus may have proved a far more painful ideal (though that side of his prison experience was never revealed). Ironically, he was stabbed up the backside with a screwdriver - though the assailant never told anyone whether Mickey's anus was pozi, slotted or hexagonal.

The manager of the side could be a bit tricky. Rix could certainly double up as coach (teaching the young kids everything he knows), while I could promote Jan to manager after his Swansea/Kidderminster exploits and pick George Best for the team. George may not care for a return to prison during his rehabilitation. He drinks milk now, y'know? Oh yes. Failing that, I could put Jan back into the side and just wait for the verdict on Dave Jones.

This lot would take some beating. Despite obvious deficiencies in nearly all positions, they have the distinct advantage of playing all their matches at home. We are at the moment awaiting our very own version of Bosman to become law, in which footballers who have spent a night in the cells can also be considered for selection. It's called The Bosnich Ruling.

In the current climate of poor footballer behaviour, the transfer market could explode at any moment. And not a single penny to be spent! No transfer fees, just transfers. There are various 'accidents' waiting to happen; Paul Gascoigne, Dennis Wise, Roy Keane, Maradona. Indeed, Old Trafford could become rich pickings if they carry on the way they do in automobiles. Yorke, Cole, Beckham, even Ferguson (he'll soon have the shits then). Who knows? If the police did their job properly and laid into Old Trafford for withholding evidence, my Lags Eleven might end up being managed by the greatest manager of all time.

Nah, no chance. Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley were exemplary characters, after all.