My instructions were clear – get those tapes before the press splash them all over the front pages. And so, after several hours of sitting in pubs near Tottenham Court Road gazing wistfully at passing foreign students, my boys finally sprang into action.
Well, I say “sprang” when I really mean “stumbled”, in this case to a local public toilet where a man with a gruff voice whose name may or may not have been Sore Throat passed them a package.
Big Jim and Scary rushed back to their flat near King’s Cross and nervously opened the package. Inside were two unmarked tapes. Big Jim removed his Dire Straits compilation tape from the stereo and put the first in. This is an actual transcript:
Unknown person barely audible: “Testing, testing, 1, 2, er...” (Coughs)
This inauspicious start suggests the clandestine recorder may well be a disgruntled squad player.
Then we hear someone mumbling in a sort of “Whensa your Dolmio day?” type way. This may or may not be Fabio Capello. It’s difficult to tell. Whoever it is, what little we can discern is this:
“Keeping our shape, walk like an Egyptian, no, you can’t be captain, John, carry on like this and you’ll be sleeping with the fishes.”
A-ha, more clues about the identity of the mysterious speaker. He knows something about tactics, wants his players to copy the style of the opposition, has a problem with John Terry, and a penchant for famous mafia quotes. Unless Wayne Bridge has acquired an Italian accent, I’d say this was Capello.
The tape ends with the unmistakeable sound of players scratching their heads and whispering to each other. The phrases “no idea” and “search me” are clearly audible from several different players.
The second tape is equally disturbing. Three players are in a room discussing tactics and how to beat their next opponents. Eighties soft rock is audible in the background. There is much talk of pressing, keeping the ball, falling over and which button you press to tackle. They aren’t talking about the Egypt game at all. It’s the Playstation football final. No wonder they were asleep for much of the first half last week. We’re in trouble unless the FA stops this lot taking their PS and X-Box games with them to South Africa.
Thankfully Big Jim and Big Jim’s Scary Half-Brother passed the recordings to me before the press got their grubby hands on them. There was no way they were ever going to sell them for a small fortune. That’s my job. I’ll be back tomorrow with much to say about my summer holiday plans courtesy of the Daily Rag.
Meanwhile, in the real world someone is concerned. The whole affair has exposed gaps in Alex Ferguson’s knowledge of the Black Arts. He is currently scouring counterinsurgency manuals from the nineteen-seventies for inspiration.
The Times has some interesting details from a security expert, though he has an interest in hyping the story up.
The Independent alleges the recordings were an attempt to catch Capello “reprimanding” Terry. They too quote security experts who must be rubbing their hands with glee at this story.
Of course the FA want to keep the recordings confidential and have already threatened legal action. This will never work. Don’t they know what country they live in? I say it’s best to get the information out in the open now rather than to leave it until 24 hours before the USA game.
The only alternative is to let the quirkier sources fill the vacuum of information that now exists. Is that really what the FA want?