1990 was a brilliant year for me. One of those years where I felt like the world was lined up on rails and I was some kind of unstoppable juggernaut - the salty joys of youth.
Let's see. I had my highers (Scottish people do them instead of A-Levels) and they went like a dream. I had a part time job by a local golf course and we'd play 10 holes for free whenever we liked. My sister, a good bit older than I am, took me to Toronto on holiday - my first ever time on a plane. When I got to Canada, I helped myself to a triple helping of my cousin's next door neighbour. She was like the local prom queen or something. The Simpsons were starting out on the telly, the Stone Roses were putting the finishing touches to their first album, 808 State were hitting the big time, Scotland won the rugby Grand Slam, and on the football front, things weren't too bad either. Liverpool were the real juggernaut, Scotland were qualifying for World Cups, and Football Italia was about to get started on Channel 4.
In those days (and maybe it's partly down to me being 17 at the time) Harry Enfield, still fresh from the grill on Saturday Night Live, was actually funny. And that's what popped into my head this morning as I woke up - a Harry Enfield sketch. A sketch that, I think, sums up our summer pretty nicely. That's if you're a pretentious over-analysing fanny like me, anyway.
The sketch sees Harry sat, white haired and ridiculously tanned at a hotel bar with a choice cut of mutton (Kathy Burke caked in make up). He looks round the bar, fixes his eyes on a sluvenly looking fella in a Hawaiian shirt, and ventures "Excuse me Sport, but I couldn't help noticing that I'm considerably richer than you".
There are a few little groups of football fans sat around our office at work, and it's fair to say that sentence isn't too far removed from the stuff they ping pong back and forth to each other over their morning cup of tea. The Spurs fan gets it from the Arsenal fan, the Arsenal fan gets it from the Chelsea fan, and the Liverpool fan? Well, I get some variant of it from them all. You see, overnight, after years and years of cultural groundwork, everyone's suddenly become an expert in football finance, and in the concept of 'value' in the transfer market, and in a club's ability to foot its wage bill and continue as a going concern. Quantity Surveyors, chefs, cleaners and Business Analysts - all of us talk endlessly about whether this club or that club's been ripped off in the transfer market, and 'where's all their money coming from', and the Financial Fair Play rules, and blah blah blah.
So forgive me for a double-pronged snook cocked back at 1990. In those days, as Liverpool quietly continued racking up trophy after trophy, none of us were ever that concerned with the fees we paid in the market, or who our scouts were looking at, or which slot in the side was being addressed before the others. People weren't even aware that they could talk to other faceless fellow fans on something called The Internet. If people felt Kenny was 'a disgrace' for covating Glen Hysen, there weren't too many people in close enough proximity to hear them. The club had funds, the club had fans, and the club and fans had faith in its manager and staff.
Anyway... the lad in the Hawaiian shirt - he turns round to Harry Enfield with a surprised smirk on his face and says "I doubt that mate". Astounded, and after a few splutters, Harry replies "Alright then, how much money have you got?". Mr Scruff replies "Er, I don't want to talk about this actually, it's a bit vulgar."
I think part of it's the fact we had those years in the company of Hicks and Gillett. We'd lost the family silver and we felt like we had to back the winner of the 4:40 at Kempton Park if we were going to be able to pay the leccy next week, let alone keep our squad in any kind of competitive shape. So we became a little educated, and we became a little concerned, and over time we started understanding what a balance sheet was, and a profit and loss account, and what words like 'amortisation' meant in relation to player recruitment.
Then of course fate dealt us a tenable connection to Michael Lewis, Billy Beane and Bill James, and we found ourselves bought by Dustin Hoffman out of Rain Man, only without the personality problems, just the mathematical brain. And he turned out to be a diamond geezer - who'd have thought it? A diamond geezer in the dugout, and a diamond geezer at the helm. Diamonds.
So now we think we're well placed to comment on whether our transfer and financial strategy's a disgrace or not.
So Harry continues. "Ok Pal, have it your own way, fair enough." He pauses, but gets visibly riled and can't let it go... "Forget the money - how big’s your house!?"
Mr Scruff replies quietly: "Which one? My house in LA, in Paris, on the Cap d’Antibes or my Oxfordshire mansion?"
Harry's face reddens further, if it's possible.
Mr Scruff goes on... "or my hotel - the one you’re sitting in at the moment?
Harry of course has to have the last word, as our Hawaiian shirted friend smiles in bemusement. "Alright Pal, you’ve had your bit of fun, I hope you’re pleased with yourself. Some people eh? They get a bit of money and it goes straight to their heads."
We've become that accustomed to counting out each bean from the can that we've forgotten Hicks and Gillett have long since ridden into the sunset, penniless. The Fernando Torres of the financial world? He's gone, and while he did his bit when it came down to it, he's otherwise firmly disgraced. Meanwhile, Ian Ayre's slowly laid the foundations for the kind of global commercial income that most other clubs can only dream of.
Yes, the stadium issue is the big stone in our collective shoe, but like everything else in the great scheme right now, it's being addressed by people who seem pretty reliable, and whose interests broadly align with ours as fans.
It's simply the nature of competition and the need for primacy that we fret about the prices we pay on wages and transfer fees. But one day soon we'll find ourselves forgetting all that.
One day soon we'll make the collective mental transition back to where we were in 1990. Yes, there were richer clubs, and yes, there were bigger, swankier stadiums, but by God we weren't that badly run, and by God we knew how to win a trophy or two.
Maybe it's time we calmed down and let things unfold for a change?
From here. http://www.level3football.com/royhendo/article/excuse_me_sport