Introduction by Billy McGraw…
I met Maximillian Alexandra Magenta Cappuccino at Askadors, the infamous nightclub in northern Wembley just off the North Circular Road, where FA officialdom meet their secretaries for debate on attacking manoeuvres, defensive structures, and the thrust of everyday footballing matters.
There was something bleak about his looks, rather as if he had opened his mouth and found that instead of being in Wembley he was on Pluto and there was rather less oxygen in the air than he had imagined on starting the procedure.
I assumed that this was because the man had not eaten a proper lunch so I offered him the customary fried egg and sausage for which the club is justifiably proud.
But for reasons that did not become clear at the time he refused and it left a bit of a nip in the air. I can only suppose he is a member of the famous Italian anti-sausage league who won the local elections in Milan last year. Not my fault of course, but it didn’t set us off on a very bright start.
His manner had nothing in it of the jolly football manager of a comic opera by Verdi that I had been led to expect from conversation in the Toppled Tripod next to Highbury and Issy station. He looked more like Wayne Rooney after seeing a couple of fans.
There was a bit of silence, but then I launched into my prepared questions.
Billy: Well Generallisimo, that was a bit of a shambles in Rainbow Land wasn’t it?
Cappuccino: You are not to call me Generallisimo.
Billy: I have just heard that you broke a glass table top during a warm up match while shouting, “Are you enjoying your holiday,” Brigadier. How did that happen?
Cappuccino: It is not true. I was simply multo aggitatato, and the players were moderato. They needed to improve.
Billy: So this improvement lark… Tough one is it? I mean, how do you do it major?
Cappuccino: I don’t do it, the players do it. And tell me, why are you working down the military order of the British army when you address me? Is it because you have a greenhouse and are friends with Dennis Bergkamp?
Billy: Just trying to get to the truth Captain. So what was wrong with Rain Wooney?
Cappuccino: Wayne had an attack of poetry throughout much of the world cup and was not fit. We tried to wean him off moving him from sonnets to haikai, but he kept drifting into the clerihew and ended up in free verse, and of course one you are trapped there is no escape. We believe Robin van Persie was responsible for invading the artistic integrity of one of our players, and we have made representation to Fufa.
Billy: Why did you leave Theo behind Section Commander?
Cappuccino: To motivate him. All red-heads need motivating because they are too warm hearted. I told him to wear asbestos to keep the heat in but he wouldn’t listen to me and ended up looking like a dead beetle so I trod on him.
Billy: But you took the coin thrower Carragher. Why?
Cappuccino: Carragher Smaragher! Why does everyone talk of Carragher and the coin throwing. He threw one coin. Does he deserve to be branded?
Billy: Most people think so. He threw a coin into a crowd at Highbury. He was bound to hit someone and most people feel that is a treasonable offence. Anyway, Lance Corproal, what is your plan? How will you rise England to the heights so that we can beat Algeria next time.
Cappuccino: I have the secret plan. Algeria is not in the European Championship so we have already won. And we shall use the racial purity model. All English players will be born in England of English mothers. I say no to hanky panky. They will all speak English, and will all live in England, preferably in Watford which is nice. We will have no windmills like the cheating Dutch. Some of the people I had to meet in South Africa wore tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses, while others had scarves wrapped round their neck twice.
Billy: How are windmills cheating?
Cappuccino: They were just introduced by landscape artists in the Netherlands to break up the incredibly boring scenery. Then some clever dick saw one and built one, and now they are the secret weapon. We will have our own secret weapon.
Cappuccino: I will tell you what. A certain critic in the national press made a remark after the game against that country that is the size of Wales that it contained ‘all the old Cappuccino players and all the old Cappuccino style of play, but under different names.’ That man has probably by now been eaten by traffic cones by now but if he survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against me in the Euros. With my superior intelligence, and my military background, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Cappuccino players from the world cup, under the same names as we saw in the world cup. It will make him look very stupid, I rather fancy.
Billy: But that is the approach we used in this world cup and we were beaten by Gondwanaland. Wing Commander, I put it to you. Don’t we need new coaches?
Cappuccino: We have a bus.
Billy: And tactics?
Cappuccino: It is all lies. I was never arrested by the finance police.
Billy: But you said you were going to play 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1 in the Euros.
Cappuccino: I deny it. I will only use men who can go into a patch of rough (like the Wembley pitch) with the knowledge that only God is watching him (given that no one will turn up to the next match), and blame the ball. That is the man who will serve me faithfully and well. If you see him, tell him I am looking for you.
Billy: So, to conclude, do you enjoy working in Wembley, group captain?
Cappuccino. There is an insufficiency of light, a total lack of ventilation, a chocolate cake for the secretary of the day which you are not supposed to cut and out of which she leaps without proper clothing, and a sad aloofness of old men who know exactly where their next free meal is coming from. The spirit is damp, the pitch is a paddy field, the tea-shop on the corner doesn’t serve frothy milk, and the weather is like Helsinki on a bad day.
Billy: Glad you are settling in. And those Wodehouse quotes you slipped in along the way?
Cappuccino: Say that again and I will have you arrested.
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