Sunday 31 December, 2006

So that was Christmas – and what did I do? Another year over – surely that can’t be true?

Could somebody tell me if they also experience the sensation that, as you get older, the years seem to pass quicker? 2006 just seems to have flown in. I’m really not sure what my plans are for this evening. Yes, we have the much-lauded “Edinburgh’s Hogmanay” celebrations but I would contend that you would have to be fairly inebriated (as most are) to withstand the cold.

I’ve only just heard that high winds are now forecast to hit the city from early evening onwards, posing a possible threat to the main event itself (two years ago, the celebrations also suffered as a result of adverse weather conditions and the main festivities were halted with only hours to go to bring in the New Year). That settles it: I’m not going near the city centre.

It won’t do any harm to attempt to calm myself and sit here for an hour or so in the early evening and reflect over the events of the past year. However, I can report a monumental occurrence, in time to welcome in the New Year: Beverley has finally caught up with the ironing (I’ve just been informed by the ironer herself that that is a very sexist remark – however, when pressed (geddit?), she has retracted the accusation).

For me, I am left with somewhat mixed emotions: the most palpable of those being whether I should have stuck with the music business full-time, rather than electing to veer off towards my football project for a few months. However, it won’t be long until I have close to the definitive answer to that one – the end of January to be precise.

Over the next month I need to concentrate very closely on placing my five priority footballers, preferably within the English set-up. Much running to and fro will be the order of the day - however on a lesser scale to that of the period August through October, when I managed to work my way through two sets of tyres. The lessons learned from that time will certainly allow me to work more efficiently over the next month.

What few players I represent are decent, fair, individuals whose priority – even ahead of a secure and substantial income - is to regularly play their football at the highest level possible. On the days (and there are more of them that I would probably like to admit to) where it all seems to be going sideways, rather than forward, it helps me to stay focused knowing that I’m associated with several talented individuals whose quality does not stop at their football.

This business of football player representation is indeed to be taken seriously, lest we forget we are essentially mapping the route – hopefully – towards these lads’ dream move; their much admired club and (for the particularly fortunate ones) the football team of their dreams.

So, as this year inevitably draws to a close, may I wish all of my readers – both regular (long-suffering?) and occasional – a most prosperous 2007. “Be careful what you wish for …..” we are often told, but that’s fine with me. Whatever fortune awaits me, I will of course be more than happy to share it with you as each week of the New Year unfolds. See you all next year, folks.

Sunday 23 December, 2006

In the UK football world, this week was one of anticipated anti-climax, as the “eagerly awaited” - yet predictably lukewarm – Quest report (commissioned to study the apparent extent of transfer corruption in the game) was unveiled to the predatory media.

What a hoot: on one side of the fence is perched Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chairman, content to perpetuate his proffered – and obviously misplaced – notion that the top clubs in the land are distanced from all football’s transfer shenanigans. How can he possibly take an objective view of developments to date? The twenty clubs in the organisation over which he presides must surely generate upwards of 80% of UK football’s transfer business. The incidence of corruption – and this is no way the exclusive preserve of football – will always have some form of proportionate relationship to the areas of greatest financial turnover.

Scudamore is almost conveniently adopting a “there, we told you so” supercilious attitude as his bunch remain (so far) untainted by any of Lord Steven’s enquiry findings. I believe his view on all of this should be “we know something’s amiss here and we’re not going to rest until we root out our member clubs who are complicit in these illegal practices”. Fat chance (from fat cats).

Now, on the other side of the fence, pray make way, ladies and gentlemen for that austere body of men, collectively cloaked under the banner of the Association of Licensed Agents. Talk about the convenience of credibility!

I know this much: some of the Association of Football Agents more high-profile members are sharp enough to have, long ago, recognised the need to keep their calculator-friendly fingertips on the pulse of the ongoing progress of Lord Steven’s current enquiry. These same operators have been around the football agency business long enough to know that the process of successfully – and untraceably - covering one’s tracks, hardly verges upon (to use a phrase recently voiced by the silver-tongued John Smith himself) “rocket science”.

You see (and I really need to take a little more time to fathom what is happening here) if certain of Lord Steven’s recommendations are implemented – particularly the one which will insist that players must pay their agents directly, meaning that such payments can no longer be derived from the relevant clubs – then the “top” agents are facing a considerable reduction in their annual incomes. For reasons that I’ll expand upon in the future, I can assure my readers that the vast majority of football players are not willingly parted with their easily earned cash.

Therefore – and you must excuse my overly suspicious nature here - might it be the case that those big football agencies, who are being seen to “co-operate openly” with Lord Steven’s enquiry, are actually quietly hoping to gently lobby (i.e. persuade) the ex police commissioner himself to reconsider the particular recommendation to the clubs, that they no longer have to pay the agents direct, on behalf of the their (the agents’) players? Clubs pay up much quicker!

Enough of that. Finally, may I wish all my regular (and some not-so-regular) readers a very merry Christmas and a most prosperous New Year. You’ve been patient with me. God bless you.

Sunday 17 December, 2006

Paradoxically (and I don’t get a chance to use that word too often) Christmas has come at the wrong time this year: just when I believe I’m building up a head of steam on the football project, some crazy, arguably overweight, guy decides to don a garishly red outfit and go charging around the skies with a bunch of hyper reindeer.

Ah, but – lest one such as myself of advancing years forgets – Christmas is surely for the children: and rightly so.

However (and I’m sure I’m definitely not alone on this one, by a long shot) the realisation that the mystique of Santa was not everything it was cracked up to be came as a palpable shock.

Can you recall any anticipatory experience that even comes close to edging into the living room on that memorable morning and discovering what had been “left” for you – purely in exchange for a glass of milk a few hastily-gathered cookies? One of the best deals on the planet, that was, in my book. God, what I would give to still have the belief in such enchantment. Maybe, life-wise, it all just slowly started to go downhill from there, once growing logic came to the stark realisation that it was nigh on impossible – even for a guy with Santa’s magical powers – to reach all the world’s roof tops in one given eight-hour period.

The gloss of this year’s festive period has further been dulled slightly by the news that my son will probably not grace the house with his presence on Christmas day. He is committed to a twelve-hour shift (at double-time, mind you) at the Stirling Hotel where he has recently landed a job as a waiter - in a brave attempt to counter a fairly hefty financial imbalance that dogs him from a substantially active social life, during his first two years at University (I can almost hear any parents, in a similar situation with their offspring, muttering “par for the course”).

As a result of the volume of hours that Bradley will put in, over the festive period in general, we are hopeful that he may be able to slip away in the early evening hours of Christmas day.

On Friday, I received a call from a London-based music management company to ask if I would be interested in becoming involved with the recently blossoming career of one of the business’s newest, hottest, properties. However, I would have had to make a commitment from mid-January onwards and at that point I am smack bang in the middle of the transfer window – hopefully on the cusp of finalising a couple of deals for my more talented players.

I was quite amused by the management company’s promise of “lots of trips to L.A.”, as if to attempt to impress and lure all prospective Tour Managers – while, in my case, having spent so much time there, such revelations are liable to make me think twice about taking the position!

Ah, well, I can always wonder what might have come of it – especially if I don’t land the couple of deals as mentioned above! It’s too late now: I’ve got to see the football thing through to the end of January, otherwise I risk a huge “what might have come of it” headache for a long time to come. No, folks, in for a penny, in for twenty (odd) grand. Madness? You’re dead right it is.

Sunday 10 December, 2006

Ah, the office has indeed been a hive of activity this past week. Now, I realise that may conjure up a picture of staff rushing here and there, engaged in much businesslike activity. However – much as I’m tempted to prolong the illusion - for “staff” read “Jake”.

Much of the work involved at this time of the football season – with the opening of the transfer window just under three weeks away – involves ascertaining what the various clubs are looking for and then trying to target one’s available players for those said clubs.

Yesterday, I attended the Airdrie v Gretna game (essentially a top versus bottom clash which – even though Airdrie triumphed on the occasion of their last meeting – had all the hallmarks of a Gretna victory) to check on the progress of Xavier, and also in the hope that our striker, Aime Koudou, would make his second appearance for the club. Alas, the latter was not to be.

“Football’s a day-to-day game” as someone said to me last week – and how right they are. As far as the result of the game went, Airdrie completely threw the form book out the window and once again managed to show that the top team can actually be beaten by the basement boys: this time, even more convincingly than the last. In addition, Xavier had another cracking game!

Moving away from football now (after all, the “Diary from the Road” has certainly strayed from it’s original theme.), I happened to speak to Dave Last the other day, Westlife’s Security Chief. He is now in his sixth year with the band, and has certainly seen a few people come and go (including me!) in his time in Westlife World. Dave’s company also oversees the security and personal transportation needs of several other high-profile acts, so he certainly has plenty going on, in his life at the moment.

Of course, several times over the last few months (as I continue to concentrate my energies 100% on the football project) I’ve had the question put to me as to whether I don’t “miss being with the bands”? To be perfectly honest, as I sit here, I’m not really sure. The adrenalin of the day-to-day touring involvement is certainly hard to match – particularly at the level that I have been fortunate to operate over the last twenty odd years. However, there’s no escaping the constant pressure that such a life style brings with it. Hence the reason it’s well paid.

In most walks of life – and I say this respectfully – the commitment to work tends to stop as the big hand reaches twelve and the little hand reaches five. In the concert touring business, we have to do it until it’s done – and it’s rarely ever completely done. There is little chance to have a second attempt at anything because tomorrow night you are expected to do it all again – albeit four hundred miles from where you are doing it tonight.

No one’s denying there’s a certain glamour aspect associated with the business – especially at the upper end of the market. However that “glamour” involves sixteen-hour days, relentless travel and extensive periods away from home. So before you prepare to pack your suitcase, and prepare to thumb a lift on the first passing tourbus, give me a shout – I’ll keep you right. I’m not going to dissuade you. I’m just going to check that you’re mentally prepared for it all! BFN.

Sunday 3 December, 2006

Here we are: 11.20 pm on Sunday evening – alone in the office, yet nevertheless determined to finish this page before the stroke of midnight.

I suppose it’s only fair to mention (if I hadn’t done so already at some point in the past) that my office is actually a converted bedroom in my house. Much as though it’s an endearing thought to know that your heartfelt sympathies may be aimed in my direction (“what is that poor boy doing, stuck in his office at this time of night?”), I’ll actually be in bed about three minutes after I’m finished this. More power to the “home office”.

And so what of the past week? Not brilliant, I would have to say: our French central defender, Omar Rezgane, was released by Hamilton (by mutual consent) as the manager was good enough to tell us that he, Omar, would probably not take part in the next three or four games.

Obviously, Omar was very disappointed however he remains confident he can find another club where he can establish a consistent run of games – Jake to the rescue again. Wish me luck.

As of tomorrow, I begin a concerted effort to speak with around thirty clubs – mainly Scottish Premier and English Championship – to ascertain their requirements for when the transfer window opens on January 1st. On the other hand, I will speak with my contacts in Belgium, France and Scandinavia to see what “gems” of players they may be able to unearth – the idea being (in an ideal world) to match club requirement to player availability. Then (maybe) Bingo!

I’m afraid I have to digress for a few minutes here (as I am wont to do, occasionally) to tell you that the “multi-storey” apartments – where I lived during a substantial part of my adolescent childhood, were actually demolished last week. “Well,” I possibly hear you saying “sometimes this happens to older housing”. However, that’s not quite the case here.

When I moved into these apartment blocks (there were three identical blocks – each fourteen stories high – distinguishable only by their names, as they faced three differently named mounts in the Pentland Hills range, to the south of Edinburgh) I was the tender age of nine, in the year 1961. These were only the second set of “multi-storey” apartments in Edinburgh’s history at the time. I actually lived there until I was seventeen.

It’s just so strange to see somewhere you once lived – and to which you moved into when they were practically new – demolished during your lifetime. Although the first of the three blocks was actually demolished last April, it was finally the turn of the other two blocks, last Sunday – in both cases when I say “demolished”, I mean by controlled, detonated, explosion.

Although I could not make it round there last Sunday to witness my old stomping ground being reduced to a (rather large) pile of mortar and dust, I drove round there earlier this evening and was aghast at the true realisation that my old apartment block is gone forever. I’m still aghast. There’s nothing like such an occurrence, to assist in putting your life into perspective. Folks, when I’m in a mood such as this, you never know what can happen next. Keep it right here. BFN.


Sunday 26 November, 2006

As Joe Cocker once said on his album “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”, it’s a strange feeling tonight.

Know what I did this week (or, more precisely what I didn’t do)? I didn’t attend the George Michael concert in Glasgow. Strange as that may seem – having worked for him for over eight years – I know I have a fairly valid explanation, at least to myself anyway.

It just comes down to the fact that it’s very difficult to sit through any concert, when you’ve spent most of your career involved on the production side of over three thousand live shows over the last thirty years.

Add to the above that I spent a most enjoyable (and lucrative, let’s face it) eight years running around the world with George, it would actually have been quite an emotional experience for me. I’m sure that each of the songs, with the exception of the most recent material, could quite easily have transported me back down the years to tie in with some specifically memorable situation or occasion. Not really quite sure how I would have dealt with that.

However, I did actually travel through to Glasgow, as Beverley would not be swayed in her determination to see George live – for the first time ever. So, Balerno taxis to the rescue.

Funny old world really, is it not? While Beverley jumps up and down like a teenybopper and allows her imagination to spiral out of control at the concert (“he’s not gay really – he’s just confused”) I’m sat in the car in Woodlands Road, under a mile away as the crow flies, composing a letter to a young football player in France, to assure him that I will do my level best to find him a small club in Scotland, where he can re-launch his career, after recently coming back from a long injury lay-off. I’m sure George himself would agree I was doing the right thing.

On the football front, it was something of a slow week, for a couple of significant reasons: firstly, very few of the First Division clubs had arranged any practice games (therefore I was unable to watch a couple of “new” players that I had been recommended) and, secondly, my own players – for one reason or another – didn’t fare particularly well in their own games.

However, onwards and upwards: like I keep saying, in actively pursuing the football side of my business, I’m happy to make thousands – I don’t need to make millions.

Sure, I’m occasionally struck by the notion that - particularly as some of the “big boys” would be more than happy if I just crept away and was never to be seen again – maybe I should just go back to doing what I do best. However, thankfully, for the majority of the time I just look at the generally poor standard of player representation that’s on offer (and, let’s face it, some of the sharks that continue to swim unchecked through football’s ever-murky waters) and it just spurs me on to attempt – in vain, no doubt – to revolutionize this business. Now there’s a big job.

Next week will be spent mostly formulating a plan for the forthcoming five weeks, prior to the transfer window re-opening, to place my players at a higher level. Wish me luck. See you then.

Sunday 12 November. 2006

Isn’t it strange, how the simplest of tasks – or even just a coincidence of timing - can make you stop and wonder what it’s all about?

There I was, this evening, trying to locate my “Photoshop” CD in order that Jade could load the programme onto her PC when - in doing so (and probably because my CD wallets are approximately in the same place in my office as various collections of family snaps) – I happened across some photographs of the children, from around ten years ago.

Now, as parents, we will always reflect – from time to time – as to how the years have flown by, particularly in respect of how fast our children appear to have grown. I could probably plead an acute case of such a common affliction, being that I’ve spent so much of my life traveling this wondrous world of ours. Therefore, in my mind, there is certainly cause to wonder if it could have been any other way. Again, this week, I’m haunted by the words of that “Kinks” track.

This has indeed been a reflective evening. I’m unsure as to what jumbled kaleidoscope of thoughts brought it on, but I said to Jade this evening that if I could go back to being seventeen (the birthday realization from last week is still eating away at me, can you tell?) then I would not need to take any material item(s) with me whatsoever. You could even send me back penniless in my boxer shorts, provided you let me take back what I’ve learned of life, to date.

It’s amazing how many people (quite innocently, bless them) tend to equate travel with success. “Come on, tell me some of the places you’ve been, Jake” is a common request in the midst of some inebriated party conversation. My reply is as equally common: “I’d be quicker to tell you the places I haven’t been”. Yeah, sure, Japan can be a cool place to check out but – trust me – by the time you’re on your eleventh trip (and pending the arrival of rocket-borne travel to the land of the rising yen) it’s no gaggle of geishas.

This week, I face up to a tough decision: do I keep ploughing time and (no inconsiderate amount of) money into the football project, which would ultimately put the brakes on all the worldly travel? While, like many of us, I’m probably not as honest with myself as I would like to be, I’ve still managed to face up to the fact that I can’t play rock ‘n roll Tour Manager for the next twenty years. Ideally, of course, the master plan is to work on the football for (say) six months of the year, keep “my hand in” on the touring for another four months of the same year and then have a couple of months left to chill. However, there are days when I sense the width of the Grand Canyon between where I am and where I want to be. Tell me I’m not alone.

Delusion can stifle many a positive train of thought, so thankfully – in my own personal experience (and even though I’m still prone to the odd dark day) – my “up” days well outnumber their “down” counterparts. Richard Barbieri, he of the band Japan, once said to me “you’ll only regret the things you don’t do in life”. Thought provoking as it was at the time, I’ve come to realise that, in my case anyway, it’s only half true as – particularly with my one glaring mistake probably heralding the breakup of my family – you can easily regret some things that you have done. Anyway, onwards and upwards. As Joe Cocker said “There’s many Rivers to Cross”. BFN.

Sunday 5 November, 2006

Remember, remember …… it’ll soon be December (how’s it come round again so quick?).

I’m still somewhat reeling from a couple of yesterday’s developments: the chilling realization that my daughter is now actually seventeen and – on a completely different subject – the central defender I signed to Hamilton FC being sent off the field after only 35 minutes!

Am I a jinx? Sometimes you start to wonder. Last week I make the long trek to Dingwall in the North of Scotland to watch Xavier playing for Airdrie against Ross County and he manages to get himself sent off just before the end of the game – then yesterday it’s Omar’s turn.

Well, at least Omar’s International Clearance papers came through – on Thursday afternoon - to allow him to play yesterday. However, the sending off means that he will automatically miss next week’s game against Airdrie. It’s true what they say: “a week’s a long time in football”.

Otherwise, I’ve spent the week running (driving) here there and everywhere and not accomplishing too much. The weather on Monday and Tuesday was poor: driving rain and gale force winds put paid to a good few planned “bounce” (trial) games. This, of course, meant that I was unable to check out the likes of Jimmy Tchana – who’s been down at Morton for almost three weeks now – and Aime Koudou. However, in Aime’s case, he has shown up so well in training that I believe the Airdrie manager, Sandy Stewart, may consider offering him a short term deal (particularly as one of the Airdrie strikers is now out for two or three weeks, as a result of an injury sustained in their game against Livingston yesterday). More on Aime next week.

I’m still hoping to have a total of eight players signed up to Scottish clubs by this time next week. Presently, I have secured four of the lads at clubs and I’m fairly sure that Aime will have swelled the ranks to five, by this time next week. Next Wednesday, I am hoping to have three players feature in a “bounce” game at Hamilton, two young French lads and one Cameroon defensive midfielder who is eligible to play his football in this country, on account of him being married to an English girl.

With a bit of luck – and some sort of law of averages – I should be able to land two of the above some form of deal with a couple of smaller clubs, again just until the transfer window opens again. Those two, coupled with a left-sided midfielder that I’m hoping Ross County (First Division side) may show some interest in, would bring me to the magical number of eight, which I believe will stand me in good stead once the transfer window opens again in January.

If I can reach that figure of eight, then the plan would be to stop bringing players in and start marketing the ones that are here - with a view to them attracting interest from a higher level. It’s undoubtedly an ever-increasingly competitive market within the UK and therefore it’s no good waiting until the last week in December to try to interest some of these clubs in foreign players: by that time, many of the professional clubs have already targeted the players that they want to add to their squads, when the window opens in January. Will I make my fortune? Only time will tell. Thank God that at least the wee blond temptress has a job! Until next week.


Sunday 29 October, 2006

These past seven days will certainly not go down as my most efficient week ever.

Quite apart from the fact that I’ve been unable to secure a practice game for either of the two French players I mentioned last week (the defensive midfielder and the young striker), we were also unable to procure the International Clearance papers for the Central Defender, Omar Rezgane – who provisionally signed for Hamilton earlier this week, on Tuesday.

However, with Omar unable to feature in Hamilton’s game against Livingston, yesterday, I had no choice but to drive north to Dingwall and take in the game between Ross County and Airdrie. I had teased Xavier (the player signed to Airdrie) that I was “pulling out all the stops” to hopefully have had Omar’s deal done by yesterday latest – just to save me having to once again endure the three hour drive to Dingwall.

To be honest, the scenery on the way north is most pleasing, however one always ends up making the return journey in the dark – and I can categorically assure you that there’s little fun in that. Thankfully, it was a fairly decent game, certainly more so in the second half: “memorable” for Xavier managing to earn himself a second yellow card in 88 minutes – and that was him off!

The upshot of yesterday’s misdemeanors – in conjunction with the previous four yellow cards that Xavier managed to attract when playing as a trialist in the earlier part of the season – means there is a very good chance he may find himself “sitting in the stand” for the next two games, confirmation of which he should receive by Tuesday of next week.

Amick, our striker at Ross County, was introduced into the game, from the bench, around the sixty- minute mark and preceded to show some skilful and neat touches around the box. Ross County ran out the eventual winners, by a 2-1 margin and probably deserved their victory.

Next week, the priority has to focus on securing “bounce games” (does anyone know how that description came about, to describe a practice game?) for the young striker, Jimmy Tchana, and the defensive midfielder, Landry Poulangoye. Their fitness levels are now more than acceptable, to allow them to play upwards of sixty minutes in a competitive match. What is not helping the cause for the beginning of the week is the weather forecast for this part of the world: gale force winds and heavy rainfall. Well, you know one of the things I always say about football (and life itself, occasionally): when one door closes, another door closes.

On the family front, my daughter Jade is looking forward to her 17th birthday next Saturday (her father isn’t as – although he would probably struggle to articulate why – the age of seventeen suddenly seems far more adult than sixteen). There’s a song by the sixties group, The Kinks, called “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?” which I had cause to recollect the lyrics of, with Jade’s adulthood fast approaching. In fact, I’ve just gone and dug out the CD and played that very track at about 120db. Sounds as good as it ever did! I have been so fortunate to have lived through such great musical times. Yes, there’s been times when I’ve been so far down, I couldn’t find up. But not today, folks. So, I’m going to make the best of it! Yeah. See ya.

Sunday 22 October, 2006

Oops, I feel a rambling diary entry coming on. This has certainly been something of a slow week, where my footballing exploits are concerned.

Without going into detail too much, on the “ins” and “outs” of footballing regulations, suffice to say that – while the transfer window is currently closed, between 1st September and 31st December – it is not easy to be able to place “free-agent” players into games so that potentially interested managers can take a look.

Take the case of Greenock Morton, for example, currently nine points clear at the top of the Scottish Second Division: with a first-team squad of eighteen players plus their under-19 squad, they can barely manage to field a side to play their weekly “reserve” games. Therefore, because the regulations forbid the use of a foreign (albeit “free-agent”) player in such games, it has been impossible for them to arrange another game – in each of the last two weeks – to be able to assess my French striker (Jimmy Tchana).

Now, I’m sure that represents a “restraint of trade”: the player does not technically have a job and certain of FIFA’s convoluted rulings are preventing him from being able to play in a game which might allow said potentially-interested manager to offer him a playing contract.

Thank goodness for the likes of Roseanne in Port Glasgow and the redoubtable Kate, in Bishopbriggs in Glasgow, whose weekly charges for their guest houses are incredibly reasonable, meaning that – while I’m waiting patiently for my two French players (Jimmy being one and Omar Rezgane, who is training at Partick Thistle, being the other) to be able to play in games.

And, what of my own state of mind? Well, let me say that there’s a lot to be said for Internet credit cards, in that the bills don’t land on the mat on a regular monthly basis. Sure, you receive an e-mail from “Egg”, telling you that your monthly bill is ready for inspection: however if, like me, you are set up to pay only the minimum amount each month, then why upset yourself by looking at the overall outstanding balance? Works for me – for the time being, anyway.

Next week, I hope to bring another couple of players into Scotland (a striker and a defensive midfielder), as there are no reserve games planned for another fortnight and –therefore – the clubs may be persuaded to stage “closed-door” games, to give them a chance to look at my available players. We can but hope.

My target was to have ten players signed by the end of October, however – as circumstances have dictated – that is now an unrealistic target. At best, if I’m willing to be honest with myself (and, ironically, this column gives me the best opportunity to do so), I will manage to have a total of six players signed by the end of this month, with a couple more throughout November, bringing the overall total to eight. Anything else would be an unexpected bonus. So, onwards and upwards. Yesterday, Amick (our striker at Ross County) only came on for the last fifteen minutes, however I continue to believe he has a great future in front of him – he just needs to exercise some patience – a bit like my own situation, I guess. See y’all next week. BFN.

Sunday 15 October, 2006

If I had to honestly hold my hand up and admit to my biggest gaffe to date, it would undoubtedly be my ill-timed venture into the licensed trade, when – back in 1990 – coming off the back of almost nine years of globe-trotting success with George Michael – I foolishly deluded myself into believing I could successfully turn my hand to anything and decided to open a bar/restaurant. Quite wrong.

During the months of build-up to the acquisition of the premises (in Edinburgh’s Shandwick Place) I was proffered some well-intended advice as to the difficulties I would probably encounter in attempting to launch a new bar/restaurant operation, on a site that had not fared particularly well – under a few different guises – within the years previous to my interest.

Of course, riding high on the wave of my recent successes, I paid scant attention to these gentle warnings and proceeded to plunder headlong into the abyss (“I come from the music business” I was often heard to proclaim “I’ll turn this operation around within a year”).

Now, you may be asking yourself, while a little bit of detailed history relating to your diarist is always of interest, where is the point of these ramblings? Well, here it is …..

My interest in the African football market is well documented although, prior to venturing – literally - into this geographical area, I was similarly cautioned (on many occasions, in fairly strong terms) as to the minefield I was about to attempt to cross.

In respect of this particular sector of my footballing business, I’ve always believed that – yes – the African Continent is a most frustrating area to deal with however, having endured the pain of my initial forays into this relatively untapped market, others hoping to emulate my modest achievements to date would only be treading in my wake. Now I’m starting to wonder.

You may recall from last week’s diary that my Zambian international left-back (Joseph Musonda) had to return home to take part in his international game versus South Africa. During the time he was on trial in the UK, there was conflicting signals emanating from the Zambian international camp as to whether they actually required Joseph to be there, or not.

By the time his national association had insisted upon his return, I found myself in the invidious position of possibly having to shoulder the blame, should I not make the best of efforts to speedily ensure his return. Being assured by my Zambian contacts that the return airfare would be reimbursed in full, I dispatched Joseph off to Lusaka with the express instruction that, as soon as he was repaid for the ticket (which is the normal procedure after the game, for the “foreign based” players) said monies were to be wired back to my account.

Well, Joseph received the money OK. However, with many pressing domestic bills to deal with, he duly used MY money to put himself back onto a reasonably sound financial footing, assuring me that he would pay back his “borrowings” once I’ve found him a deal! Well, I was warned, was I not? These coming days will indeed be contemplative ones. Out of Africa indeed. Mmmm.

Sunday 8 October, 2006

After wandering somewhat off the beaten track with last week’s diary entry (although it’s kinda refreshing once in a while just to go where the mood takes you) I thought it might be an idea to start this week by just re-capping where I’m at, as far as player world goes.

So, what do we know? Currently, I have three players signed up to Scottish clubs: Chad Harpur (goalkeeper) at Kilmarnock; Xavier Barrau (left-sided midfielder) at Airdrie United and Amick Ciani (striker) at Ross County.

Joseph Musonda, the Zambian international left-back, returned to Lusaka on Wednesday to join his international training camp in preparation for today’s African Nations Cup qualifier against South Africa. Alas, I just found out about thirty minutes ago that they lost 0-1 in the game, which now puts them second in their section. Zimbabwe also lost by a 0-1 margin to Malawi “away”, so neither country’s too pleased with the outcome of their respective qualifying games.

This week has been comparatively quiet on the player front, largely due to the break in the league calendar, to allow the international games to take place. Why there is no Scottish First, Second or Third division league games being played yesterday is totally beyond me, as none of the international squad are drawn from the ranks of those three divisions.

As the full time clubs (Premier and First division) normally take the opportunity to rest their players for a 2/3 day spell, it’s difficult to bring “trialists” into those clubs for five consecutive days. Therefore, I’ve taken the opportunity to this week to a) tidy up my office, b) reorganize my client files and c) spend a little time on the phone with my European and African contacts.

This latter activity has yielded some results in the form of three or four “fit and free” players that I am still hopeful of placing with clubs, come next week. At this time, six weeks into the “closed-window” period, some of the clubs are starting to feel the pinch as early season injuries and suspensions look to curb their squad choices. What I’m proposing to these clubs is that I find them a particular player who can shore-up the area of the field where they may now find themselves a little short-handed (it’s only to see them through until the transfer window opens again in early January – just over two months, therefore unlikely to break the bank).

Consequently, heading over this way next week I have a 6’ 3” central defender (Omar Rezgane) on his way to Partick Thistle and also a quick, technical striker (Jimmy Tchana) who will spend a week with Greenock Morton. Will this finally be “Morton’s year”? I have a sneaking suspicion ….

I’m sure I mentioned last week that I had brought a French central defender (Lyazzides Bakouche) over to Scotland to train with Airdrie, but – as is the case every so often – he endured something of a stinker of a trial game, for want of a better description. Next week I have to try to place him with another Scottish First Division side: I’m always willing to make the extra effort to assist the players that are genuinely nice guys (oh, yes, there are some that are not). I’ve little time for some of those foreign players who demand a large salary (net of course!), an apartment and a car, before they’ve even arrived here. Most tedious at times. BFN.

Sunday 1 October, 2006

Here we are again, happy as can be: Jake and his players – one big fam-i-lee!

The above lines are sung to the tune of a once familiar song, which – naturally – I can’t recollect the correct title of. Am I losing it this week? Not a chance (that’s because I lost it years ago).

You know what I’ve often wondered? How good must it feel to know that you’re financially set-up for the rest of your life? Yes, sure, money isn’t everything: I particularly recall my good friend Gavin extolling that “It’s not money that’s the root of all evil – it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil”. Some other fairly bright spark noted that it’s only ever those that are struggling financially, that will claim, “money isn’t everything”.

It surely can’t be a bad feeling just to stride up to an ATM machine and withdraw the amount of cash you want, rather than most of what you have left in your account.

Here’s something else that I continually grapple with: how can so many people out there have so much money? To balance the economy there must be hundreds and thousands (millions, even) of us just getting by. Unless there is “old money” in the family, then “new money” has to come your way as a result of something you are selling, be it a product, a service, an idea etc. I just can’t fathom how so many people can have so much to sell, that it makes them so much money. Of course, part of the answer has to be that not that many people are so well off as their lifestyles may indicate: they’re just up to their eyes in debt. Getting credit is easier than getting drunk.

A few months back, my daughter Jade was sifting through a pile of mail that had accumulated on one of my many trips away. She subsequently happened across an application letter for an American Express card. I just couldn’t be bothered to fill the forms out, so I challenged Jade to do it on my behalf (signature and all, I have to say!). We had a good chuckle to ourselves the next morning as we dropped it into the mailbox – and an even bigger chuckle to ourselves when a pristine American Express card arrived about ten days later!

I have Manny to thank this week, for prompting me to bring these diary entries up to date. Manny, in his role as Senior Vice President of Apparel Distribution at Kilmarnock Football Club has indeed a thankless task: but he nevertheless applies himself to his work with the type of refreshing outlook that could probably be canned and sold.

Manny, along with the likes of Roseanne Quigley in Port Glasgow (who takes in my footballers when they are on trial at Greenock Morton) and Kate Hepburn in Bishopbriggs who is currently housing Xavier and hopefully soon Lyazzides (more of Lyazzides, if and when I stray back on to the subject of the players next week) and just a few of the good people of this world who are doing it because they love the involvement: sure, we all need to make the money to pay the bills, however these guys genuinely enjoy what they do – and the buzz of being around football generally. To that I can certainly relate. One thing’s for sure: no one could accuse me of being in it purely for the money right now. Give Mr. Barclaycard a call: he knows the truth. BFN.


Sunday 24 September, 2006 Boy, the weeks are certainly flying in! However, the good news this week comes in the form of a contract at Airdrie United for Xavier Barrau. After his impressive showing in last week’s game, as a trialist, against St. Johnstone, I got the feeling that it wouldn’t be long before Sandy Stewart would be looking to sign him up. Consequently, Xavier played his second game for Airdrie United yesterday – but this time as a contracted player of the club. He also managed to land the “Man of the Match” award as well. I’m still persevering with Joseph Musonda, our Zambian international left-back, who spent a couple of days at Crewe Alexandra FC and then traveled up to Scotland with me on Thursday, with the hope of going on trial at Motherwell: however the club decided to pass on the offer. So, now, we have three players signed up - with the plan being to make some money for our company, once the transfer window opens again in January. To be honest though, my initial plan to secure contracts for ten of my originally-targeted fifteen players, may now prove to be a tall order. To recap, there are three signed; three still on trial (Arend, Joseph and – although injured – Brian); two still to arrive and three on trial in Europe. Therefore, my target is still mathematically possible (just) but – in reality – a long shot. More likely, we’ll have a total of seven or eight players signed up by the end of October. I can, however, be thankful for one major development, in that my investment expenditure in these lads has certainly slowed up: as soon as they are signed to a club, their accommodation costs usually become the cost (directly or indirectly) of the club to which they have signed. In fact, many of the clubs will pick up the cost of the players’ accommodation as soon as they express an interest in extending his trial period. As this is the first time in the last four or five years that I’ve really given the football side of my business a serious push, then it’s only natural that I should expect some up-front expenditure. Nevertheless, as a result of somewhat rushing into things again, I can already see areas where we can considerably reduce our outlay, when we come to do this again in January. Within the next few weeks, I need to draw a line under the player-signing activity: after all, we are fast approaching the point where there are very few “fit and free” players still out there anyway. So, by the end of October, latest, I can start to formulate the plan for the players I will look to move, when the window opens again - in just over three months. I truly believe that if I just take a couple of weeks to steady myself and debrief the activity of the previous two months, then I can come up with a more efficient plan for the “next round”. I would sincerely like to see a situation, evolving over the next 2/3 years, when the core of my business involvements sees a shift away from my touring projects and on to the football. You know, everyone should visit America to see the country for themselves: however, once you’ve traveled there (and back) forty-three times – at the last count – then it may just start to wear a little thin. And, that’s only the one country. Can you blame me for wanting a change? BFN.

Sunday 17 September, 2006

Welcome back my friends, to the credit card that bends.

Although I would like to boast a better “strike rate” than one signing a week, I have to report that the past week has been a flurry of activity; tankfuls of fuel; little sleep – but, alas, no one actually signed. Ah well, we’ll just have to hope to have two of the lads signed up next week.

When I left you last Sunday, I was just dropping Arend von Stryk, our Namibian striker, at the Dundee hotel, in preparation for him to join Dundee United for training, the following morning. Craig Brewster (Dundee United manager) also kindly agreed to allow Xavier to join the same training session. Dundee United had a reserve game, versus St. Mirren, on Tuesday afternoon, which Craig allowed Xavier to toke part in – in fact, he played for the whole ninety minutes.

It wasn’t that Dundee United required to sign a left-sided midfielder: however, with them having played Hibernian in their league game on Sunday, Dundee United didn’t have too many players to call on, for Tuesday’s reserve game. Unfortunately, in Arend’s case, we were to find out that his pre-season training schedule in Namibia was obviously nowhere near as intense as that as undertaken by the likes of Dundee United. Result? Unfortunately, Arend was correctly deemed as not being fit enough to take part in the game.

On Wednesday, I took the opportunity to put Xavier into training with the Scottish First Division club, Airdrie United, who are currently operating with a limited first-team squad. On the strength of Xavier training with them on Thursday and Friday, Airdrie United took the opportunity to list Xavier as a “trialist” for their away game at Perth (versus St. Johnstone) yesterday, 16t September.

Although Arend joined Xavier, at Airdrie’s training sessions, on Thursday and Friday we decided – in respect of his fitness still being well below par – to ask Greenock Morton (the current leaders of the Scottish Second Division) if they would allow Arend to join them for a week, to expressly work on his fitness levels. Jim McInally, the manager of Morton who has done a sterling job there for the last two seasons, was agreeable to the suggestion and Arend traveled down to Port Glasgow today, to base himself at Roseanne Quigley’s guest house for next week.

Brian Badza remains “holed up” in Coventry, at a Zimbabwean friend’s house, in the hope that the (foot) injury that he sustained while training at Dundee United will heal pretty soon. There is still noticeable swelling on the inside of his ankle and I fear that he won’t be doing much training this coming week. The prospects for Brian being included in his country’s upcoming international game for Zimbabwe (versus Malawi), due to be played on the weekend of 7th/8th October are not – I have to say – looking good. On a brighter note, Brian had an impressive game for Airdrie United yesterday against St. Johnstone game. I’ve got little doubt that Sandy Stewart, the Airdrie United manager, will be giving me a wee buzz over the weekend to discuss Xavier enjoying an extended run with his club! Something tells me that I’ll definitely have something to report on the Xavier front, this time next week. No plans to bring any other players in to the country for the time being. Let’s get the lads that are here sorted out first.

Sunday 10 September, 2006

Well, another week and - thankfully – another player signed.

This world of football can indeed change at a moment’s notice, particularly when it comes to the individual fortunes of the players themselves.

Take the situation this week with Chad Harpur, my goalkeeper from South Africa, who is also the holder of a British Passport. There he is on Monday and Tuesday “pounding the beat” back and forward along the Kirkcaldy esplanade for the purposes of maintaining his fitness, yet still unsigned to any club. Meanwhile, on the other side of Scotland – at the regular training session on Tuesday afternoon – the Kilmarnock number two goalkeeper sustains an injury that will keep him out of action for around three weeks.

As a result, and following a call from the Kilmarnock manager, Jim Jefferies, I find myself whisking Chad over to Kilmarnock on the Thursday morning in order that all the paperwork can be processed to enable Chad to be sat on the bench, for Saturday’s Premier League game, away to Dunfermline. Ah – in football anyway – what a difference a week makes.

Otherwise, Brian Badza is now up at Dundee United, following a recommendation from Billy Brown, the Kilmarnock assistant manager. Remember that, although Kilmarnock had kindly offered Brian training facilities to work on his fitness, they were not in a position to extend that to a contract offer – on account of the fact that they have around five strikers on their books already. Anyway, Dundee United will assess Brian over the next few days and then we will take it from there.

Today I collected one Arend von Stryk from Prestwick Airport, here in Scotland, and delivered him also to Dundee United. Arend is a Namibian international footballer, with dual nationality as a German citizen – a great advantage as it negates the need to apply for a UK Work permit on his behalf. He is a tall, physical, striker who has played for his country three times and this will hopefully come as encouraging news for Dundee United as they seek to strengthen their striking department. Indeed, on today’s televised Scottish Premier League game between Dundee United and Hibernian, the Dundee United manager (Craig Brewster) actually played himself in the game - as a second half substitute – as evidence of the above.

As far as Xavier Barrau – the French left-sided midfielder – is concerned, he continues to improve in every practice game in which he features, strengthening my belief in his natural ability to play at (at least) lower Premier level in Scotland or Championship level in England. That boy will do well, as soon as he has the opportunity to prove himself at such a level.

The current expenditure on all these players continues to flow in one definite direction, however already I can see that we’ll have two players out of contract come the 1st January and that is where – of course – we would look to recover our initial investment (and more!) as some reward for our efforts in persisting with marketing their careers and, consequently, placing them at a higher level, when the transfer window re-opens at the beginning of next year. BFN.

Sunday 3 September, 2006

Well, with the Christopher Katongo debacle behind me (see last week’s entry) it was time to push on this week and concentrate on securing deals for Amick Ciani, Xavier Barrau and – of course – the irrepressible Chad Harpur (goalkeeper of the month, in my book anyway).

Having had Amick and Xavier and Chad included in a “bounce” game for Raith Rovers, versus a Falkirk side at the Falkirk Stadium, word has started to get around in regards to the ability (and availability) of these three lads.

First to benefit from that was Amick, the young French striker who was recommended to the Ross County’s manager, Scott Leitch, by the Falkirk manager John Hughes. As a result of this, Amick caught the train from Kirkcaldy last Sunday afternoon (27th Aug.) to Dingwall, via Inverness. Ross County is the most northerly of the Scottish professional clubs, however the train journey will no doubt have alerted Amick to some fine Scottish Highlands scenery.

The plan was then for Ross County to play him in a practice game on Wednesday this week and - as Xavier was not involved in any training that day – he accompanied me up to Dingwall where Scott Leitch invited him to take part in the proceedings: this Xavier did and he did well.

Amick also acquitted himself admirably, with the result that he managed to land himself a contract until the 31st December. The management team at Ross County expressed an interest to see Xavier again, however the Raith Rovers manager (Gordon Dalziel) had promised Xavier that he would play him – from the start – in a league game versus Stirling Albion, earlier today (Sunday).

But – wait – isn’t football a funny game, as they always say? On Wednesday Raith Rovers issued a statement to say that the club were parting company with Gordon Dalziel and that – for the time being anyway – the Youth Team coach would be overseeing the first-team affairs. The outcome of this? Xavier only plays for just over thirteen minutes, at the end of the game.

So, it has been something of a slow week for Xavier - although he should be commended for “knuckling down” and continuing to adhere to his personal fitness schedule, including long punishing runs back and forth along the Kirkcaldy esplanade. I just don’t know how he does it.

All this time Chad, too, has kept up his training routine confident in the knowledge that – in goalkeeping world – the scrapes and spills will (sooner or later) render one of his fraternity incapable of carrying out his duties for a few weeks or more. At that point Chad will have to grab his opportunity with both hands, albeit in most cases he will find himself anchored in the “number 2” spot: but, hey, that will be a start – and a platform for greater things to come!

So, next week, the concentration must be focused on securing a appropriate deals for Xavier, Chad and, not forgetting, Brian Badza (who technically qualifies for a UK Work Permit this coming Tuesday). If we keep our nerve and we keep our belief, then all will come right for us. Sure, we are running up a fair expenses bill but “you have to speculate to accumulate”. BFN.


Sunday 27 August, 2006

Mmmm …. I’ve had better weeks, I would have to say.

During last week’s progress report, I no doubt made mention of one of my African players, Christopher Katongo – who hails from Zambia. Christopher was the focus of my attentions this past week as (quite apart from him being able to boast an impressive international pedigree) the Scottish Premier Club, Dundee United agreed to have him in for a couple of days training.

The Manager of the club, Craig Brewster, definitely warmed to the player’s style of play and – in conjunction with the club’s Chairman – made it known to me that they would be interested at looking at the possibilities of offering the player a deal. This duly materialised, within a week of the player being there. Suddenly, I was visualising myself being able to make inroads into that weighty credit-card bill that ominously vies for my attention, from the corner of my desk – but, alas (as far as Christopher Katongo is concerned, anyway) it was not to be.

You see, Christopher is still contracted to the South African Premier League club, Jomo Cosmos (owned by the renowned Jomo Sono) which means that any arrangements to transfer a player such as Christopher, to an overseas club, must first have the blessing of his “current” club.

Dundee United, in looking to conduct their business in as professional a manner as possible, duly contacted Mr. Sono and negotiated a verbal deal that appeared to satisfy both parties (well, Dundee United anyway). With that matter supposedly out of the way, I was free to assist Chris to negotiate his personal terms, based upon a two-year contract with his “new” club.

Late on Tuesday night we concluded the above business – which was just as well, as Christopher was due on a flight the next day (at 05.50 am!) from to Johannesburg, via Amsterdam. At this point, Dundee United were still awaiting a response from Jomo Cosmos to a faxed confirmation of their understanding of the verbal agreement that had been reached a few days previous: however, we all hoped (all except Jomo Sono, it would now appear) that this was purely a formality and that everything would be locked down in a couple of days.

I should also mention at this point that Dundee United managed to procure the player’s UK Work Permit in almost-record time: “a good sign” I thought to myself at the time. Quite wrong.

So what’s the outcome of all of this? Yes, folks: one big fat zero.

They say, “you win some, you lose some” – well, this one I’ve definitely lost. But, you know, not as much as Christopher Katongo has. He has spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to make a serious name for himself based upon his South African club believing that the deal offered to him was sub-standard. It wasn’t, believe me. The poor lad has allowed himself to become embroiled in – and be quoted in relation to – his South African club’s apparent, unfounded, disenchantment. Without going into excessive detail, I’m saddened by the outcome of these events, mainly orchestrated by the player’s South African club – but, boy, have I learned a sharp lesson. BFN.

Sunday 20 August, 2006

Welcome to the month of living dangerously.

I knew I had been plundering my credit card relentlessly (in pursuit of the next Ronaldo) however I had no idea that I had dumped almost £6,000.00 pounds of expense on to it, within the last three weeks: maybe I’m going to need a couple of Ronaldos.

I have reasonable news for you however as I can now (almost exclusively) reveal that Dundee United has taken a serious interest in our Zambian captain, Christopher Katongo – and this is how it happened...

I mentioned last week that Christopher was down at Watford. However, with the start of the Premiership only days away, even they admitted they would need more time to evaluate Chris – unfortunately time was not something we had in plentiful supply. The end result? We headed back up to Scotland on Monday evening where – with the Edinburgh Festival claiming virtually every available hotel room in the city - I had little choice but to house Chris at the University accommodation on the edge of town, and thankfully not too far from where I live.

On Tuesday, I had to head up to Dundee to see my other three lads playing in a trial for Dundee FC, against a local junior team, “Dundee Violet Juniors”, which the senior side comfortably ran out 4-0 winners. Christopher watched the game with me and afterwards we all headed back to the lads hotel in Broughty Ferry (a suburb of Dundee) for some dinner and a chat about developments to date.

Wednesday traditionally being a day off in the world of football, I beavered away in my office in the earlier part of the day, during which time I thankfully received a call from Dundee United to say that they would like to take a look at Christopher in training, the following morning. Result!

From that point onwards – at least as far as Chris is concerned – things have only got better and he has now spent three days under the wing of the Dundee United operation and appears to as happy as a pig in poo.

My other three guys, Xavier, Amick and Chad, are just hanging in there – keeping fit – and hoping that the optimum chance to show what they can do – with the appropriate standard of club – presents itself, sooner rather than later. They are all good guys and I suppose I’m maybe allowing my heart to rule my head in underwriting the (ever-increasing) costs until something comes along for them.

Certainly Chad was unlucky at Dundee, after playing one full game as a “trialist” against Hamilton (his first competitive game for three months) and turning in a reasonable performance. Football can indeed be a cruel game and opportunity is generally all about “right time, right place”. So we will push on in the belief that we will find then some form of deal, and that – further down the line – their opportunity to step up onto a more lucrative stage will surely present itself. I certainly hope so, or before long I’ll have to dust down another credit card. Perish the thought.

Sunday 13 August, 2006

Am I making headway in this crazy world of football? I’m reminded of a line of a Rick Derringer song (“Rick, who?” I hear you young ones saying – look him up) that goes: “Every now and then it’s kinda hard to tell – but I’m still alive and well”.

And that, folks, pretty much sums up the past week. I have endured a knuckle-clenching ride on the roller coaster of football and – yes – there’s been some ups and there’s been some downs.

I sometimes wonder if there’s a bit of the manic-depressive in all of us. My son did remind me, many years ago in fact, that an optimist lives 20% longer than a pessimist. Was he right?

If you are a regular reader of this “column” then you’ll have gathered that when I’m “up” I can walk through walls and – thankfully – that is my state of mind for the majority of the time. It’s just once in a while – when I reflect upon the fact that I couldn’t have planned things worse if I tried – that events seem to construe to add up to on big BAD day. That was yesterday.

Now, again if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I “confide” quite a lot in you guys, however – for the time being – I can say too much: this to protect the guilty! Depending on the unfolding outcome of yesterday’s calamitous day, I’ll know doubt be able to divulge the nature of what occurred, somewhere down the line. For the time being, here’s your one-word clue: FOOTBALL.

Boy, are we straying way of the “Diary of the Road” theme, but (for those of you who have stuck to your task of wading your way through my verbal jungle) here is a brief update on how my five lads are doing:

Brian Badza [Zimbabwean] is coming along fine, training at Kilmarnock, while we await news of his International Clearance (which will allow him to play in an official reserve game here); Chris Katongo [Zambian] is in training with Watford at the moment, however I suspect the beginning of the Premiership is weighing heavily on their mind at the moment; Chad Harpur [South African, but with a UK passport] actually played as a trialist for the Scottish First Division side Dundee yesterday – his first full competitive game for three months – and despite them losing the match 1-0, I believe he came through it well; Amick Ciani [French] who played his second trialist game, for Dundee, against Hamilton, yesterday; Xavier Barrau [also French] who has the look of a cultured midfielder about him, but – like Amick – needs a few games to bring his fitness level to where it ideally needs to be.

“All you need is one of them to sign a major deal” as my partner keeps reminding me – and he’s right. As Brian is a free agent and a prolific striker, you would have to argue that he is my best bet, but who knows which of these lads will assist me to soon make a sizeable dent in my credit card(s) bills?

There’s nothing like structured financial planning – and what I’m doing here is nothing like structured financial planning. As long as I keep my nerve (I keep telling myself) then things should come reasonably good for me: check back with me (and my delicate sanity) next week.

Sunday 6 August, 2006

From here on forward, let this week be known as “Melting Credit Card” week. Let me explain.

With the majority of the football players that contact me to find a club that will offer them training facilities, I propose the following arrangements: they must pay their own return air fare and my company will then cover the cost of their first few nights in a local Guest House: after which – hopefully – the club will then pick up the accommodation tab.

Even this arrangement is only proposed to players that have “checked out” on the Internet and who have played their recent football at a credible level.

Now, some of my African lads (who, even as recognized national team players, make relatively small monthly salaries) just cannot even contemplate the cost of an international return air flight. However, because they have been thoroughly checked out by my Chief African Scout - and because I advise them that such expense is purely a personal loan from me – I have little choice but to “front” the cost of such air fares, until such time that I can recover the cost from the club which will (if all goes according to plan) offer them a playing contract.

So, when you add up those airfares, hotel accommodation and various other out-of-pocket expenses (phone cards, taxis, meals, etc) you can see that, when there are five players currently here in the UK looking to land contracts, the initial “advance” costs can be considerable.

Over the last week, we have had Chad Harpur (South African goalkeeper) arrive on Monday; Amick Ciani (French striker) arrive on Wednesday and Brian Badza (Zimbabwean striker) arrive yesterday (Saturday) morning. Chad is currently training at Kilmarnock, although the injury to one of their keepers may not be as bad as initially feared by the club. Amick was rather fortunate in that he showed up impressively enough in training on Friday and Saturday that Dundee decided to play him as a “trialist” in yesterday’s game against the Glasgow club, Partick Thistle on the opening day of the First Division season: he actually played for about 55 minutes as his fitness is not what it should be.

Brian actually traveled up to Dundee yesterday, along with Beverley and Bradley and myself, to watch Amick’s game. I then brought Brian back to Edinburgh where he stayed last night, before I dropped him off in Kilmarnock today, where the club have kindly allowed him to join their first team squad for training: Brian, too, lacks a fair degree of match fitness and therefore must work hard over the next few weeks to condition himself to the point where he can make it through a competitive ninety minutes. As a result of an injury to their first-team keeper, Dundee yesterday asked me to bring Chad up there today, where he will join them tomorrow with a view to securing a contract until the end of the year.

Therefore, costly as it is, I am satisfied with how things are progressing. Sure, we need to be able to secure the players’ contracts at the appropriate clubs, sooner rather than later: however, they are here, they are working hard and I have faith in all three of them. There’s nothing compares to the buzz of discovering an “unknown” player. Soon, all the clubs will want one. BFN.


Sunday 30 July. 2006

Home, once again, at last. But, what of the last week? The African adventure continues.

Although I had originally planned to stay behind one more day in Namibia – and travel down to Johannesburg on Tuesday afternoon – I brought those travel plans forward twenty-fours and flew back down on Monday instead: I hadn’t managed to meet as many contacts as I had hoped, when I was there in the earlier part of last week, hence the reason to spend another day there.

In the end, with Johannesburg being such a sprawl of a city, it proved impossible to meet everyone I would have liked to: however my time spent there still proved worthwhile and will prove even more worthwhile as we continue to develop the African continent market.

I flew back to the U.K. on the Virgin night flight, on Tuesday night, arriving back into Heathrow at 7.10 a.m. the next morning. In my usual manic haste, a few weeks back, I had managed to book my onward flight (to Manchester) from Gatwick instead of Heathrow: therefore, for my sins, I had to jump on the airport transfer bus over to Gatwick. For a brief moment, I thought, “what the hell, I’ll book another flight or I’ll just rent a car and drive up there”. However, I quietly reminded myself that I haven’t signed Ronaldino yet and consigned myself to the forty-five minute bus ride.

As it turned out, there was a fairly serious accident on the M25 orbital motorway, meaning that - although I narrowly managed to board the BA flight to Manchester - my luggage didn’t make it. That little mishap kinda messed up the rest of my day – as the VHS tapes of the games I had watched back in Namibia (and which I was keen to have converted to DVD format, to enable them to be sent immediately to my contact, Jean, in Belgium) were “safe” inside my suitcase. I eventually took delivery of the luggage just after 4.30 pm and managed to catch the video technician before he shut up shop for the evening: so, not so bad a day after all.

I elected to base myself out of “Blonde Central” for Thursday and Friday, not only because I was due to make a flying visit to one of the Sheffield clubs, but also because Beverley’s next door neighbor had recently relocated to a newer house nearby and was having a little house-warming!

I nevertheless had to depart Northwich fairly early this morning, as I was meeting a young goalkeeper (Chad Harpur), upon his arrival at Prestwick Airport in Scotland, from where I dropped him at the Park Hotel in Kilmarnock, in readiness for training tomorrow morning.

By this time next week I should be able to report on the progress of Chad and three other foreign players that I will bring to Scotland in the next few days. As a result of the time I’ve been able to allocate to my football project, since completing the European tour dates with Franz Ferdinand, I am now working with a nucleus of fifteen players, from which – sadly, as past statistics show – we will be able to place ten, before the transfer window closes on 31st August.

If things go according to plan over the next few weeks, I may even have to consider remaining these diary entries. However, I’m not about to tempt providence. So, we shall see. Bye for now.

Sunday 23, July 2006

Greetings, from Windhoek, to my loyal (although, I suspect, dwindling) band of followers. Windhoek is the delightful – possibly enchanting – capital city of Namibia. Brad had actually called me to say that he and his missus would hang back until I made it into the country but, you know, I said “Brad, mate, I really don’t want to thrust you, Jolly Angie and the sprog, out of the limelight – best to leave now, son, rather than be caught up in the clamour when I arrive”.

Suffice to say, there cannot be that many capital cities in the world, I would imagine, where – a mere three kilometers from the city boundary (while traveling in from the airport) – you are confronted by a baboon family scampering across the main road in front of you.

Jacob, my Chief African Scout, tells me in fact that a high percentage of the road deaths in Namibia are the result of drivers hitting large animals in the middle of the night on the highway (chief culprit, in this case, would appear to be the Kudu, that fleet-footed, deer-like, creature).

So, to backtrack a little: Monday and Tuesday were spent in Johannesburg, visiting various clubs from the Castle Premiership, the country’s top football league.

On Wednesday, midday, I boarded the flight to Windhoek, where I was to base myself for the next five days. Although the actual tournament games were not played until yesterday and today, it was important that I had a chance to meet with the associations of the four countries involved: we have gone to considerable trouble to forge good and mutually respectful working relationships with the likes of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia: this past weekend gave us a chance to add The Seychelles and Malawi to that list.

For the record, Zambia won this knockout section (they were, after all, the favourites) by winning their first “semi-final” 3-1 over Malawi: Zambia actually went in a goal down at half-time but scored three in five minutes, late on in the game, to put the result beyond doubt. In the other semi final, Namibia was beaten on penalties – by The Seychelles - after a 1-1 draw.

Zambia, therefore, played the Seychelles earlier this evening and finished up 2-0 winners.

We are proud to have added the captain of Zambia, Mr. Christopher Katongo, to our small – but talented – stable of players and we shall soon – in conjunction with his presently contracted club, Jomo Cosmos of South Africa, begin to carefully plot the next stage in his career development.

To be honest, being as young and excitable as I am, I’m quietly confident that – by Christmas – the pendulum of activity, relating to the balance of my activities, might just swing football’s way.

This journey - if successful – will have taken me over ten years to complete. Sure, if I had cut a few corners, I might now be sitting out in the likes of Monte Carlo, as a tax exile: however, I’ve managed to stay “clean and green” throughout the last decade, so I’m sticking to my guns. Hell, I might even order a glass of champagne on Tuesday night, on the Virgin flight home: although, I’m still up the back of the plane. It’s too soon to start upgrading myself. My time will come. Oh, yeh.

Sunday 16 July, 2006

Yes, yes – I’m very aware of the generally held opinion that – given the choice between the “glamorous” music business and the often-murky world of football – I’m probably short of a fair few brain cells to pursue this fixation of mine, in attempting to right the wrongs of football.

This week, John Madejski (owner of the newly promoted Premiership club, Reading FC) has stated that he may be faced with selling the club, as he is at pains to sanction the amount of spending he is faced with, to give his club a fighting chance of staying in England’s top flight.

He’s right you know: he also bemoans the loss of “traditional football values” when players would do anything to ensure they were included in the squad to cross that white line every Saturday. He cites the fact that the majority of top-flight players seem more concerned with securing “a bigger house or a bigger car” than applying themselves to earning their lucrative salaries.

Of course, there’s a fair portion of “agent world” that is doing little to reverse these alarming (yet commonplace) trends: they are just as afflicted by the greed illness as the very players they represent. “Sign with me son - I’ll get you ten grand a week”. That’s badness – not business.

Once again, of course (and any regular reader of this diary will detect the distant scratching of that old, familiar, broken record of mine) it’s the clubs that must shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for this spiraling state of affairs – it is the clubs that agree to pay such astronomical sums, both to players and their agents. The players only hope; the agent’s only ask – but it’s the ownership of the clubs that sanction the signing of both parties’ cheques.

So, what’s the answer? The answer is a completely serious overhaul of the whole system (pray that the task be entrusted to an tough, independent, compliance unit) with which the FA – with all the administrational speed of molasses – should have no involvement, other than possibly to professionally “force” the club’s into accepting, and abiding by, the findings of such a project.

There’s no way I have all the answers but, while football in the UK – certainly at the highest levels anyway – continues to strut and preen, believing they are a law unto themselves, this poorly state of affairs is going to eventually threaten the very lifeblood of the professional game.

Well, I shall continue to question and disrupt (in the most professional manner of course) in the belief that there are those who share my views and my concerns and who, hopefully, may be in more of a commanding position to help bring about many much-needed changes – than I can alone.

So much for “Diary of the Road” huh? I’ve actually been chained to my desk most of the past week, preparing for my trip to South Africa and Namibia and I can honestly say that – as I sit here at the departure gate at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 penning this very edition (“wireless” is a wonderful thing!) I’m very much looking forward to this next, football-orientated, adventure. What will become of me, indeed? Look, I’ve managed to secure the finance to see both my children through University so – for once – the risk is all mine (and a fair risk it is). On a lighter note, just heard my Zambian striker has scored a corking goal in Capetown! Maybe, just maybe…

Sunday 9 July, 2006

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen? Not necessarily so..

Particularly when the budget hotel I booked at Copenhagen airport (this one’s at my cost!) turns out to have no phones in the rooms. However, as I’m a keen exponent of phone discount cards – which I use in as many countries as possible, to avoid both astronomical hotel and “roaming” cellphone charges – I had a couple of unused Scandinavian cards from the time I went to Oslo with Franz Ferdinand: so those were put to excellent use.

On Monday morning (3rd), prior to checking into the afore-mentioned hotel (the “Sleepeeze” Hotel!), I accompanied the band to the airport, to give the Tour Manager a hand to check everyone onto their Zagreb-bound flight. Normally, Rebecca (the band’s Tour Manager) could handle that sort of thing in her sleep, however we both suspected that the airport might be somewhat busy, as a result of Sunday being the last night of the outdoor festival at Roskilde, at which we had performed the night before (the festival site is only 40 kilometers from the airport). How right we were.

There were so many people awaiting the opportunity to check in for their flight (many of them being concert-goers, wrapped up in their sleeping bags, oblivious to the mayhem around them, strewn around the terminal floor) that – because the departures are one level above the check-in desks in Terminal 3 – the airport management had to stop the escalators, just to allow departing passengers to queue up on them!

Anyway, the band and crew managed to make their flight - and once they were all through passport control I caught a taxi back over to my airport hotel. Later that day, I met up with representatives of three of the football clubs in the top league to avail them of the service that we have to offer, particularly where African players are concerned.

Next morning, Tuesday, I caught the first flight back to Manchester where I was met by the blonde temptress – and straight off to Edinburgh we drove, arriving late afternoon.

I hadn’t seen my son or daughter, at that point, for about four weeks so it was good that Jade was around the house when we arrived back. Wednesday was taken up with domestic-paperwork chores; sorting through a pile of mail and returning a fair amount of answering machine enquiries.

I spent Thursday morning in town, just running some errands and then briefly hooking up with a couple of people who I hadn’t seen for awhile: Jade, meanwhile, was actively engaged in re-painting her bedroom therefore I helped out by removing various fixtures before she started.

As I was due at “T in the Park” with Franz Ferdinand on Saturday, most of Friday was taken up with related phone calls and running around to gather up some bits and pieces that Rebecca had asked me for, in an e-mail sent from Croatia. Saturday’s show went off without a hitch, in spite of it raining for most of the day. Next week, I’m busy preparing for another African trip, this time to Namibia for the next round of the Cosafa Cup. I just need that one transfer deal...

Sunday 2nd July, 2006

So, where did we leave off last week? Ah, Luxembourg, if I’m not wrong – at the “Rock-a-Field” festival: after which it was overnight into Utrecht in Holland, where we were to spend a total of three days (Monday, as a “day off” and then Tuesday and Wednesday playing at the Tivoli club).

Now, when a band such as Franz Ferdinand embarks on the “European Summer Festivals” circuit – and in doing so (rightly) attempts to reasonably maximise the actual number of performing opportunities available to them in a given period then, purely down to the logistics involved, there’s bound to be the odd “unfillable” gap.

I guess we could have just accepted we were facing such a four-day gap, and traveled direct from the Luxembourg festival, to Switzerland to hole up until Friday when we were due to play a festival at St. Gallen. However – quite apart from the economics involved – there’s no doubt this band would rather be playing than sitting around and it would appear to me (from my nightly privileged viewpoint, upstage left) that the lads are just as happy, sometimes possibly more so, to play a small, vibrant, club as they are a large outdoor festival.

As it turned out, the level of hospitality offered to us from the staff of the Tivoli was better than we have come to expect at many a larger show. There was part of me thinking that – if I could earn as well from the club shows as the festival events, I have a fair idea as to which environment I might prefer: particularly at this stage of my career when I’ve played almost every type of facility there is to be found.

So, a pleasant few days in Utrecht, punctuated by a couple of storming little shows. The only slight drawback (as a result of the restrictive weight loading governing the canal-side street on which the Tivoli club is located) involved us having to “cross-load” our equipment from our own truck – stationed in a commercial car park about five kilometers away – into a smaller, tail-lifted, vehicle that could negotiate it’s way to the Tivoli’s front entrance.

Overnighting out of Utrecht, we arrived in Zurich around lunchtime on Thursday, with the rest of the day free. Accessing the festival site at St. Gallen the following day involved a one-hour drive from the Zurich hotel, which we left as late as possible, in consideration of the fact that our show time there was thirty minutes past midnight! All this meant that we didn’t pull off the festival site, en-route to Werchter in Belgium, until about 4.00 am: at times like these we give thanks to the man (or woman?) who came up with the concept of the touring sleeper bus.

Werchter has always been a most enjoyable concert experience as they are so organized and have continually improved their facilities down the years – to the point that (and I’m sure most Artistes and there crews would agree) you’ll be hard pushed to find a more comfortable outdoor environment on the European festival circuit.

Today – my final show, deputizing for a real Production Manager, Michael O’Connor, was at the well-renowned Roskilde festival on the outskirts of Copenhagen. So, back to football business with a trip planned for Namibia in the middle of this month. Keep it here. Don’t touch that dial.


Sunday 25 June, 2006

Well, when I arrived in Harare, last Sunday (18th), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

The airport, while compact, appeared well organized: the actual distance from the jet-way to the curbside was refreshingly short. On the way however, I first had to purchase my visitor’s visa.

In common with many countries, whose embassies vociferously advise that you obtain your visa prior to leaving the UK, it is a very straightforward procedure to obtain one’s visa upon arrival at the airport, just prior to passport control and baggage claim (I have this theory that many of the UK-based foreign embassies derive a fair portion of their income from “persuading” unknowing tourists of the absolute need to obtain their visa prior to traveling).

Brian Badza, one of the Zimbabwean players that I hope to bring to the UK in August, was kind enough to collect me at the airport, from where we made our way to the Holiday Inn. There, I based myself for a few hours, to facilitate a series of meetings that I had pre-arranged for that day (I was booked on the flight down to Lusaka in Zambia, early Sunday evening).

Brian’s situation is quite complex. His previous visitor’s visa application was completely bungled by a local representative whom I paid to assist him, and another Zimbabwean international (Joel Luphala), when they attempted to procure their UK visitor’s visas, back in February of this year. This is part of the reason that I needed to make the trip: the British Embassy agreed to see me in person and I felt it only fair to go and explain our side of the story, face to face.

Anyway, I’m jumping ahead of myself here: back to Sunday and, after the meeting with Brian, then attending one of his club’s games (he plays for a team in Zimbabwe called Caps United, although at the moment he is just returning from injury), I caught the afore-mentioned flight down to Lusaka and met up with our local Zambian contact, Benedict Tembo. We then made plans for the forthcoming two days, as I had arranged to meet several Zambian international players.

Consequently, on Monday morning, I set myself up in the front foyer of Lusaka’s Intercontinental Hotel and conducted my meetings from there: those Zambian players have their sights set on continuing their career in the United Kingdom. Let me tell you – Southern Africa is a tough market in which to operate– however I’m convinced that I can develop it to my advantage.

On Tuesday morning I flew back to Harare and fulfilled my appointment at the British Embassy. I then spent the rest of the day (and well into the night) maximizing my opportunity to meet with as many prospective players as possible prior to my early morning departure on Wednesday back to the UK (the only drawback of this trip being the need to endure a day return-flight). Of course, the fun never stops and I had to board a flight the next day from Manchester to Madrid, in preparation for my ten-day stint with Franz Ferdinand, with a particularly tough start.

In the space of three days, the band played four shows: Friday in Madrid; two shows – at different locations – in Paris on Saturday, finishing up in Luxembourg on Sunday. In seven days I’ve certainly visited a diverse array of international cities. But now, I need to sleep. Love y’all.

Sunday 18 June, 2006

Well, there I was last week, banging on about how important it was (particularly as I’m due in Madrid on 22nd of this month to commence my twelve-day stint with Franz Ferdinand) that I fly down to Zimbabwe and Zambia no later than Tuesday or Wednesday. Well, guess what?

I’m sitting here at 30,000 feet, it’s 1.00 am UK time on Sunday morning (probably a record for me, as far as making a prompt start to my weekly diary is concerned) and I’m due to land in Harare at 6.25 am local time.

The general plan of action is now this: take up station in the Holiday Inn in Harare today (Sunday) until about four o’clock this afternoon. After that, it’s back out to the airport to catch the Air Zimbabwe, 5.45 pm, flight to the Zambian capital of Lusaka, where I will arrive one hour later. I will then spend Sunday evening, all day Monday and early Tuesday morning in Lusaka, before taking the midday flight back to Harare, where I will stay that night, catching the daytime flight back to Heathrow on Wednesday. That doesn’t put me back into Manchester until around 10.30 pm – then I’m off next day to Madrid, as afore-mentioned.

Therefore, within the next seventy-two hours, I have to pack in as many meetings and appointments as possible with players, association officials and a selection of the leading clubs’ owners – in both countries.

I’ve no doubt I’ve covered the painstaking detail – required to bring international Southern African players to Britain – in some past entry of this diary: suffice to say there are numerous, known and unknown, obstacles to be overcome, before they can even initially set foot in the U.K.

I have (to have) this continuing belief that, once the present activity finally abates, on 10 July, in respect of the 2006 World Cup, attention will soon begin to re-focus on the next World Cup, to be held in South Africa in 2010. So, we need to get moving in our quest to have the highest profile – throughout the African continent - of any UK-based player-representation business.

We have, indeed, chosen a difficult – and time consuming – project to embark upon, however I see it this way: by the time much of our competition wakes up to the fact that there is lucrative business to be pursued in this part of the world, we will be a fair distance down the road already.

So, this four day trip to Zimbabwe and Zambia is crucial to our company if we can, as a result of bringing certain talented players to the U.K., begin to establish what I believe to be a well deserved (as a result of our endeavors to date) trusted reputation as a straight-up operator.

I intend to come down here twice more before the end of July (to take in one of the next stages of the 2006 Cosafa Cup or one of the qualifying rounds of the 2008 African Cup of Nations). I’m sure that – come this time next week – I should have some interesting observations to draw upon: added to the fact that – even though I’ll only be out with Franz Ferdinand for just under two weeks – next week’s entry will truly – once again – be “from the road”. Ah, the things we do for love (of the job). Keep you fingers crossed for Ghana in their last (first round) game! BFN.

Sunday 11 June, 2006

May I commence this week by offering something of an apology, to my regular (brow-beaten) readers? In reviewing last week’s “Diary from the Road” – as I always tend to do prior to starting work on the current dispatch – I’ve noticed that about half of the page was taken up, rambling on about air miles. It was just that I was excited to discover that I was able to make a (literally) cost-free trip down to the lower African region, sometime over the summer.

When you are in the position that I am – namely, quietly confident that provided I hang in there until some well-deserved good fortune bathes me in the selectivity of it’s glare – then the longer I am able to keep my foot firmly jammed in the door of opportunity, the sooner the forcible weight of persistence will break it down. I stand by what I say, as regards my ultimate earning potential in the football business: I don’t need to make millions – thousands will do.

This past week has been something of a stop-start-stop event for me as, on a daily basis now, I have teetered on the cliff of indecision as to when I leave the UK, to make my “first” pre-season trip down to the Southern African region - the initial priority being Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The focus of my company’s attention revolves around whether we will be able to persuade a particular African-continent international player (can’t say too much at this point, I’m afraid, as this is a delicate matter) to allow us to represent him within the UK market. Life in countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe is indeed tough: by way of example, the life expectancy in Zimbabwe at this time is reckoned to be around the forty-three mark. Understandably, many of those country’s young, talented, footballers will clutch at any straw of opportunity that could mean a way out for them (much like many under-privileged Indian youngsters view cricket).

The small difficulty I face now is that – keeping in mind that I am due in Madrid on the 22nd of this month to begin a twelve-day stint with Franz Ferdinand to deputise for their Production Manager – I need to be back in the UK by 20th of June latest, and tomorrow is already the 12th.

While one always endeavors to conduct one’s business in an orderly, organized fashion, we nevertheless have to remember that we are dealing with both the football world and the African market and – in this particular instance – I may just have to pitch any vestige of caution directly into the wind and jump on the first available flight on Tuesday or Wednesday (and, of course, to be able to take advantage of my air miles at this “late” stage, becomes increasingly unworkable, with each passing hour).

My Chief African Scout, Jacob Amaning is always in demand by his local (Namibian) TV station for his informed comment on – and knowledge of – world football therefore, as you can imagine, he has hardly left the studio in the past forty-eight hours. Jacob is my eyes and my ears in the southern African footballing market and it makes much sense to plan my travel with him in mind.

Hopefully, come this time next week, I will have much to report and some pics to colour my story!

Finally please note that we are in the process of changing the Web site name to: Hope you approve. We just need a more businesslike identification. BFN

Sunday 4 June, 2006

Well, back “on the road” - to some degree - this week.

Let it be said that, while the amount of traveling that I’ve done in my time can verge on the downright tedious after a while, there’s a lot to be said for air miles – especially when they help to fund one’s vocational passion (in my case, of course, the football business).

What I’m trying to say here is that – faced with a necessary trip to Belgium (both to catch up with some of our African players who ply their trade there – and also to take the opportunity to personally visit the major clubs) having the facility to cover the cost of the flight, using one’s air miles, is a definite advantage. In fact, not only was I able to buy my Manchester – Brussels – Manchester return this week, I still have enough British Airways miles for a Manchester – Jo’burg – Manchester return – and, as you can well imagine, that will come in very useful!

Once last thing on the air-miles front (if you’ll indulge me): in trying to figure out which airline would offer me the best London – Jo’Burg – London return, should I be faced with having to buy a ticket outright, I happened upon a “Virgin Airways Flying Club” card, hidden away in my wallet. As I didn’t think there was any harm in calling Virgin to enquire whether being a holder of such a card enabled me to claim any discounts on that particular route (and forgetting that I had made a return US trip with Westlife two years ago – in Upper Class, lucky me – when they filmed the “Allow us to be Frank” video in Las Vegas) I discovered I actually had a “credit” of 44,000 air miles. All I need is another 6,000+ (which I can actually purchase for just under £100) and there’s another return trip to Jo’Burg that I only have to pay airport taxes for. Result, indeed.

However, I digress – back to my little “goodwill” trip to Belgium, which lasted from Tuesday to Friday this week: it was good to meet up again with our Chief European Scout, Jean Bosco Murego, who is based in the charming little town of Lokeren. Last week I did my best, in phoning ahead, to set up as many appointments as possible to see the Directors of Football of the main Premier League clubs (known as the Jupiler League, after Belgium’s most notable brewer).

In the end, considering that many football clubs run on a skeleton staff at this time of year (during which time most of the managerial staff take the opportunity to grab a few weeks vacation), I was pleased, nevertheless, that we were able to sit across the table with the decision-makers at such notable clubs as Racing Ghenk, St Trudien, Lierse and Ghent.

I was also able to meet up with our African players who were not on vacation themselves, the common thread with the majority of our guys being that they are awaiting issue of their Belgian passports: once they are recognized as official EU Belgian citizens – and with their shiny new passports actually in their hands – they are no longer hampered by the stringent requirements of the UK Work Permit, if they want to continue their playing careers in the UK (and they all do!).

I know I’m well intended; I know I’m capable of working eighteen hours a day; I know I can give football something of a wake-up call. Nevertheless, in spite of the football agency business being peppered with rogues, I must trust that a little luck will shine on me. Watch this place. BFN.


Sunday 28 May, 2006

Well, gang, I may just have scored a “first” in this year of our Lord, 2006 (we’ll soon find out now, if any of my regular readers are overly religious): I actually spent the whole seven days in Scotland – although – you knew there was a catch – the seventh actual night finds me here in suburban Northwich. Well, it was close.

Of course, it will come as no surprise that my head was buried in football world for most of this week. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way as – as much as anything else - it keeps me out trouble. I may not have actually told you this before, but when it comes to “ripping it up”, there’s admittedly no middle ground with me: I’m either boringly chained to the desk – or jumping up and down on top of it. The former – sorry to disappoint you thrill seekers – is certainly way more prevalent than the latter, nowadays. Life’s too short and hangovers tend to be too long.

At this juncture, I’m reminded of a famous utterance by Dean Martin, on the subject of alcohol over-indulgence, when he said “I feel sorry for all you tee-totallers: when you wake up in the morning, that’s the best you’re ever gonna feel”. Of course I can’t pass by the opportunity to now quote an equally quotable Frank Sinatra who once remarked “You only live once but – if you’ve lived like I’ve lived – then once is enough”. Ah, Fwankee, you were my sorta guy.

So, what of this past week? Well, just preparing for the trip to Belgium next week, both to hook

up with the players that we represent there and also to take the opportunity to – optimistically – visit the Sporting Directors of all the clubs in Belgium’s Premier League.

Belgium – if you’ve ever had a chance to study it closely – is not a terribly large country and although certain of it’s top football clubs are at opposite ends of said country (Club Brugge in the west and Standard Liege in the east, are good examples of this) it is perfectly feasible, with a carefully planned schedule, to visit the targeted twelve Premier League clubs during the three days I will spend there, based in the picturesque town of Lokeren. More ion this next week.

On Sunday, I attended the first day of Franz Ferdinand’s technical rehearsals in Glasgow: while I had to hook up with Rebecca, the Tour Manager, to run through some budget issues, I also needed to drop my son there, as he had managed to secure three days work as the Production Runner/Boy Friday: yes, starving student lucks out and lives to learn another day (or two).

I left the rehearsals around three in the afternoon (the blonde one had arrived in Edinburgh – Motherwell actually – on Friday evening, which meant I had some company on the drive south) and arrived here in Northwich at about 7.00 this evening. It’s amazing how quickly the journey passes when you have someone to while the time away with – as long as you regularly feed her.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s bank holiday, as it will certainly reduce the amount of cellphone calls I have to field in a given day. I fly out to Brussels on Tuesday afternoon, so my diary will remain someone true to it’s titling next week, as it will be – to some degree – “from the road”. Now you all mind how you go out there: as you know, it’s a tough old world, however I’m walking talking proof that if you stick to your purpose, then you will surely get there in the end.

Sunday 21 May, 2006

You know, I’ve long suspected that there is a direct relationship between the progress of my football project and my “non-involvement” periods within the concert-touring business: and the past week has definitely served to confirm that theory.

If I’m honest with myself, I can definitely recognize a pattern where I can start to make inroads on developing the football business, and then along comes (say) a lucrative North American six-week tour, during which time – as a result of 16-hour-a-day mayhem – the football project grinds to a halt. Two steps forward and then three steps back.

However, without the monies earned from my touring work, it soon becomes apparent that the funds do not exist to keep the football business going, at a sustainable level.

Therefore, presently, I’m taking something of a chance in not accepting any touring work over the next two months (save for a ten day period when I will be “covering” for Michael O’Connor, Franz Ferdinand’s new Production Manager, for ten days, towards the end of June). By the way, I still haven’t managed my trip to Belgium – for a variety of reasons – but will finally fly to Brussels and spend three days in the country, commencing Tuesday [30th] next week.

Will I ever realise this football vision of mine? Oh, yes, I think about that often, too. What actually pushes me on having now spent over ten years attempting to put the industry to rights? Well, there’s a few notable incentives: the fact that, for the time being anyway, I do not depend upon football for my livelihood, therefore I can voice my opinions honestly; the appalling “service” that many agents give to their clients; the innate corruption (moral even more so than financial) that is rife within our game; and – glory be - the thought of unearthing another Eliphas Shivute, the first Namibian player to sign for a British club, whom I brought to Motherwell in 1996.

Best of all, is probably the knowledge that football doesn’t really want a guy like me around – a guy that they have no control over, a guy that “tells it like it is”, a guy that actually cares about how irresponsible agent activity may eventually irrevocably injure the once beautiful game.

Crazy as such a claim may seem, if I win the lottery this coming Wednesday, I have the ability to force major change in certain areas of British professional football – first and foremost, the player representation standards and service levels: to where it can only noticeably benefit the general standard of football in this country. Just watch me go. Stand clear. Duck.

Well, time to climb down off my orange box now: if you’ve hung in this far (and if you’re one of my regular readers, you’ll be well used to the occasional, moralistic, rant) I THANK YOU.

Belief, belief, belief: one good acquisition, player-wise this summer, and I have created the breathing space to enable me to build a foundation and an infrastructure that will allow me to eventually re-write the manual on player representation. Maybe he’s lurking out there in Belgium right now. Hopefully, I’ll have something positive to report, on that subject, this time next week. Yes folks, it has been contentious but – I like to think – it has at least been real. See y’all around.

Sunday 14 May, 2006

Now, folks, you could say that I was a fairly happy camper today as my football team (Hearts) won the Scottish Cup yesterday! Admittedly, as those of you who may have caught the highlights of the game on television would agree, we certainly made heavy weather of it – the game went to extra time and then to nail-biting penalties. While every true football supporter (and I’m sure this includes most of the Hearts support) could only be respectful of the progress that our opponents, Gretna, had made to reach the final, no-one expected them to put up such a fight.

Yes, Edinburgh was a good place to be last night, believe me. Believe it or not, I actually did not make it to the game, as a result of a bizarre culmination of circumstances that saw my son (as a result of industrial action within the teaching staff) have to re-sit one of his exams yesterday afternoon, between 2.00 and 4.00 pm!

By the time we found this out, I had already purchased four tickets to take my son, my daughter, their mother - and myself - through to Glasgow for the day. However, in the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to be there, when he was going to be stuck back in Stirling. Therefore we decided that Jade and Stella should continue through to the game (it wasn’t difficult to find a buyer for the other two tickets) while I would go to Stirling, drop my son off at 2.00 pm for the exam and then take up station at the Meadowpark Hotel, on the edge of the campus, and then collect him at half-time, when his exam was finished. At least we managed to see half of the game together.

As for the rest of this week: on Monday I drove from Manchester to Birmingham, to meet up with Franz Ferdinand’s Tour Manager and Production Manager so that, collectively, we could check over all the band’s equipment, now located at our trucking company’s storage facility.

By the time we’d taken the opportunity to briefly visit the band’s set-fabrication and lighting companies (both based in close proximity to the trucking company, in the same area of Birmingham) it was late afternoon, so the early evening traffic heading out of the city was slow.

Consequently, I didn’t reach Edinburgh until after 10.00 pm, but thankfully not too late to swing by my daughter’s place, as I hadn’t seen her for almost seven weeks (I hope I don’t regret some of those absences at some point in the future). I had planned to fly to Belgium on Tuesday or Wednesday, however all the flights proved too expensive to book at short notice, therefore the intention is to try to make that trip (to visit some of my African players, based in Belgium) in the coming week. Hopefully I can fly from Prestwick airport in Scotland to Charleroi in Belgium.

When you’ve been away for seven weeks or so, you can imagine just how much post/circulars/junk mail etc. is eagerly awaiting your return. Much as though Jade “edits it down” for me, I still spent the best part of Tuesday wading through most of it and generally dealing with all issues domestic. This left me a couple of days to tidy up all the loose ends relating to the tour. Friday was spent in Glasgow taking in a few meetings relating to my football project. Yesterday was of course a historic day, for reasons explained at the start of this week’s entry: I’m still sitting here, allowing it to sink in – we’ve won the cup twice in eight years! I’m now spurred on to make some real progress on my football project this week. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. BFN.

Sunday 7 May, 2006

Well, here I am, back “home” again, having arrived in from Manchester at Thursday lunchtime.

If you happened upon last week’s diary entry, you’ll know that I arrived in Hollywood last Sunday night, in preparation for two TV shows, on Monday and Tuesday, before boarding the plane home to the UK, on Wednesday evening.

In closing last week, I made mention of my many Hollywood memories: these being as a result of my past extended stays in the area – on three separate occasions – down through the years. There was the time we were housed in Laurel Canyon for four weeks, while the Bay City Rollers recorded a pilot TV show for NBC, at KTLA’s studios - this in 1980. Previous to this, earlier in the same year, the Rollers also spent a couple of weeks based up on Mulholland Drive (in a former house of David Cassidy’s) during which time we undertook an extensive press and promotion campaign. The third occasion was when I was based in the valley – Woodland Hills to be precise – working as the Tour Manager for the band Alcatrazz.

Therefore, in contrast to the sheen of glitz and glamour that is inextricably associated with Hollywood, I was able to peer underneath that veneer and find out much about what life in that area is really about – and, you know what? I loved it. This perception was certainly aided by my befriending of two wonderful women (no, not at the same time!) one of whom trustingly allowed me to cruise around West Hollywood in her cool yellow Cadillac. Her name was Penelope: a fine, fine, woman and a considerably successful make-up artist in the film industry.

Now, you wanna hear something real eerie? A couple of years back, while involved with a Westlife “G.A.Y.” appearance at London’s Astoria theatre, I befriended Tina Arena’s manager – also a Penelope. So, over the space of twenty-five years I meet only two Penelope’s, and on differing continents at that: however, they have certain visual similarities! Wild, huh? Yeh, I’m a lucky guy.

My other lovely friend from those heady Hollywood nights was Elizabeth, a gentle, considerate American-Italian who exhibited much patience to await the odd occasions when we actually managed to spend any time together. I’m honoured to have had two such great friends back then.

Having said all that, I didn’t look either of them up when I was in Hollywood earlier this week – and I’m really not sure why. To be fair, we spent most of both days locked away inside the respective TV studios (Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmell) and I spent any available evening time attempting to finish up my accounts. Beverley would have been fine about it – from the beginning, she’s known that I’m an incurable flirt, however in a harmless and respectful way.

I’ve promised Beverley that we’ll try and find some time to visit Hollywood together (she has yet to visit the West Coast of the US) and I’m extremely lucky to have a woman that won’t mind me visiting my old (young!) friends. Yeh, I’m a very lucky guy.

Boy, as I’m wont to do occasionally, I slightly wandered of the “road diary” subject there. Fear not, I’ll be back on track next week. A little reminiscing never did a boy any (real) harm. BFN.


Sunday 30 April, 2006

What fine city do you find me in today, as I pen my weekly contribution? None other than sultry Palm Springs, itself. And what of the last seven days? Coming right up folks.

I believe I left off last week in Winnipeg, where we had a show on the Sunday night, at the Burton Cummings Theater (by the way, I’m sure I didn’t mention this last week, but Burton Cummings was a founder member of the fairly successful Canadian band, Guess Who: they had a few sizeable hits way back in the mid seventies, the more prominent of those being “American Woman” and “Albert Flasher” – check them out). However, back to this week...

We overnighted out of Winnipeg into Edmonton, with the Monday night off: there was indeed a great temptation to go hang out with the tour crew that evening, at the English pub round the corner from the hotel, however the only place I ended up at was the Staples copy centre across the street, as I finally made a start to copying all of each show’s accounting paperwork, to ensure that Death Cab for Cutie’s business management received a duplicate set of information.

From Edmonton, we traveled further west across Canada, to play a show – on Wednesday evening – at the Calgary Stampede. Although the Stampede grounds are extensive, to enable them to house and present the annually held “cowboy fair” there is also an indoor facility which has a capacity of just under 4000, which has staged many concerts over the years.

Calgary certainly re-activated my memory banks, as it was here that I did my last show with Jethro Tull, way back in 1976! My partner at the time, Stella (later to become the mother of our two children) joined up with me there and the next day, with the tour having come to a close the previous night, we took the Canadian Pacific train through the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver. From there, we flew to Denver and then hired a car – with no credit card, just a passport copy – and drove to California to visit my Auntie Evelyn, who then stayed in Hollywood Way in Burbank.

In the eyes of the majority of outsiders, I’m probably viewed as having enjoyed a fairly successful career in the music business, having rubbed shoulders with many of the “big names”. Some days I’m not so sure: worldly traveled does not always translate as worldly successful. I’m sure it’s far less important where I’ve been than what I should have learned along that way.

Anyway, more of these reflective thoughts coming up next week, once I have spent a few days in what I consider to be – strangely enough – almost my spiritual home: California. For the time being, let’s deal with just how I finished up in Hollywood, at the end of the week.

We played our final “co-headline” show at Vancouver’s PNE Arena on Friday evening, before catching an early flight the next day to Palm Springs, for the band’s appearance at the Coachella Festival in Indio, a forty-minute ride from Palm Springs airport. We were the last act prior to Depeche Mode on the main stage. Personally, primarily as a result of the stifling daytime heat, I was glad to make it back the hotel that night. This morning we made the two and a half hour drive to Hollywood, where we arrived at Le Parc Hotel (more memories) at 4.00 pm today, having first dropped a couple of the technicians at LAX airport. See you right here next week. JD

Sunday 23 April, 2006

Greetings from Canada, as I sit here in my Winnipeg hotel room and survey the urban sprawl of this cool little town. But, hey, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet: another week has slipped by and here I am to recount the happenings of that very week.

On Monday we played at Ricoh Arena in Toronto, essentially an ice arena which – in keeping with the multi-faceted flexibility of the majority of North American indoor arenas – can change itself into a concert venue at the drop of a hat (and a couple of hundred 8’ x 4’ sheets of birch ply).

In contrast to most of the shows that we have done over here to date, the floor area of this particular show was “reserved” – that is, seated and ticketed. This, in comparison to G.A. (General Admission) where you can wander about the floor area to your heart’s content. However, continually mindful of how excited some of you young things can become, the local authorities in most of the major cities will (quite unreasonably at times) elect to limit the floor capacity.

Although we pulled in a 7000+ crowd in Toronto, I suspect the lads didn’t quite connect with the room. As every Artist will tell you, some nights have it and some nights don’t – and sometimes it’s not always very clear as to what factors determine one outcome or the other. In my time, I’ve experienced more than a few occasions when one of the many acts I’ve worked with has taken to the stage with a measure of trepidation (maybe they had an average gig last time round; maybe it’s the first show of tour; maybe it’s just their first time in the likes of New York) but somewhere towards the middle of their set, the whole event experience inexplicably gels – and then, even more inexplicably, often throws up the most memorable of gigs.

Ah well, back to the present and back into the States again for a Tuesday night show at the State Theatre in Detroit, where I’ve played in the past with the likes of the Cult and Oasis. Amazingly, on the very next block, facing the same direction as the State Theater is another grand old theatre, The Fox. Like the State it has a rich cultural history and I should really make an effort in the future to find out why two such theaters live within 200 yards of each other.

Onwards to Chicago for Wednesday, and another classic old entertainment venue, the Aragon Ballroom. The band took the opportunity to video certain aspects of the performance, not a terribly easy accomplishment on such a small stage. The load-out (consisting of a fork-lifted loading dock from street level to the venue floor, two storeys above) will probably go down as the longest on this tour, taking over three hours. We were glad to climb on the tour buses and head for our last US date on the tour, the Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis on Thursday night.

The mood on the crew bus was indeed convivial after the show, as we headed for Winnipeg - with the reward of a proper “day off” coming up on Saturday. “Day off” in this case being defined as a twenty-four period that involved no travel whatsoever. To be honest I was edging towards a night out on the town, in a cool blues bar around the corner from the hotel, however – grudgingly eying my accounts spread all over the bed - reminded me that some things will not go away unless you make a positive effort to make them go away, and accounts fall fair and square into that category. Next week there will surely be less accounts. There had better be. See you then.

Sunday 16 April 2006

I believe I left off with you guys last week, when I was on my way overnight to Washington, DC from Cornell University in Ithaca, in New York State.

Now, Monday was a day off and when you’re “going in” to a day-off, you’re always keeping your fingers crossed that the hotel has not been too busy the previous evening – this means that you have a chance of checking in right away, when you arrive at (say) eleven am in the morning.

However, for example, if the hotel has been sold out the previous evening and – even worse, if you’re looking to check in on a Saturday or Sunday morning, then you have to be prepared to hang around the hotel lobby, sometimes until mid afternoon.

In Washington, our luck was in. At the show on Sunday night, in Ithaca, Rebecca had called ahead to the Helix Hotel in Washington (to check how it was looking for check-in the next morning) to be greeted by a most helpful lady on the front desk, called Holly – and, as you can see, Holly has gained a mention on the old Web site. She will surely now go on to greater things.

Bless those people at the Helix Hotel: they wanted to be different – and how. Here’s an insight: awaiting your arrival, there’s a large cardboard cut out of Austin Powers in the reception area.

Unfortunately, different doesn’t always mean functional, when your accounting processes are two weeks behind. Subdued lighting; triangular work surfaces; ceiling suspended television – not to mention the animal-print bathrobes – don’t always lend themselves to concentrate the mind.

Washington itself is of course a beautiful, strangely peaceful, metropolis: upon arrival at the load-in at 8.30 am the next morning (Tuesday) I promised myself that I would at least find ten minutes in my day to step out into the spring sunshine and bathe in it’s warmth. Never happened.

Boston was our next show on Wednesday - at a relatively new facility called the Agannis Arena, just on the outskirts of downtown. I managed to commandeer my own accounting office, tucked away in corner of the backstage corridor, and with the severe reduction in “traffic”, normally associated with all of the production personnel housed in the one office, I was able to crack on with my settlement accounting – and would later reflect upon a satisfyingly productive day.

Hello New York (for Friday and Saturday) where the majority of the punters can sometimes appear to be more concerned that there name is featured firmly on the already-jammed guestlist, rather than witnessing a thoroughly entertaining show. Apart from the difficulty of loading-in from a busy New York street (with a less-than-enthusiastic labor crew), I would have to say that I, personally, did not find myself on the receiving end of too stressful a show: of course this would have been different had it been Madison Square gardens. However, when you have the support of a Tour Manager of the calibre of the celebrated, sophisticated, Rebecca Travis (she asked for a quick mention this week!) then your day is significantly easier. Thankfully, we have a great, hard-working, crew out on the road with Franz Ferdinand and, while some days are definitely harder than others, everyone pitches in 100% for the show. See y’all next week.

Sunday 9 April, 2006

So, I wanted to tell you a little about my five days in Chicago, when the Franz lads were enjoying in a recording studio, doing what bands do in recording studios.

Although Rebecca (Franz’s Tour Manager) and I had a fair amount of work to plough through, pertaining to the remaining dates on the tour, we promised ourselves we would at least try and get out and about a bit and see some of the city.

For my part, the recently-arrived Beverley and myself jumped on the trolley bus, just around the corner from the Water Tower shopping plaza: a trip that was to cost us $20.00 a piece (my initial reaction to this cost was “mmm, a bit stiff” however it was to prove excellent value for money. Now, belatedly, I come to the point of this rambling.

Within the bounds of that two-hour trip, I saw more of Chicago than I’ve seen in the last 10/12 times I’ve been there, and this over the space of some twenty five years. So – is this rock ‘n roll traveling lifestyle everything it’s cut out to be? Sure, we see a fair bit of the world, but most days (when you fall out of a bus and into your designated Production Office and then identically reverse the process some sixteen hours later – many times without ever actually having left the building) you could be in Hammersmith Odeon in London, and almost never know otherwise.

Now, by anyone’s standards, I’ve been doing this a long time so maybe all this travel is just starting to wear a little thin: maybe, because I believe I’m closer to finally cracking my football project than I’ve been for a long time, I’m frustrated at not having enough time just to talk to my players occasionally. When I took this job on at relatively short notice, I knew that – for whatever reason – I had a fair bit of catching up to do: I just didn’t realise how much.

However, one has to assume the responsibility to see the job through, and now – with the benefit of having spent five days in the one city – I feel I’m finally getting to grips with things.

Getting back to this week’s touring activities, I can tell you that I caught a flight to Durham in North Carolina on Thursday afternoon, in preparation for a show the next day at Cameron Indoor Stadium on the Duke University campus. We then overnighted, after Friday night’s show at Duke, into Camden, New Jersey, for a show at “The Tweeter Center” on the Waterfront.

The last show of this week – today, Sunday – was another University: this time Cornell University in Ithaca in New York state. My experience so far with the University shows (this was our third on the tour so far) has been that the students are keen as hell, but occasionally short on experience – still I would probably prefer it to be that way, than the other way around.

Tomorrow we have the night off in Washington, prior to Tuesday’s show at the Constitution Hall, which starts a five show straight run, including two nights in Noo Yawk’s Hammerstein Ballroom.

So, folks, while I can’t promise you a continual narrative of thrills and spills – I’m saving that for my autobiography - I still think I can safely say (and I would hope you may occasionally concur with me on this) that this topsy-turvy lifestyle of mine makes for the odd unusual tale. BFN.

Sunday 2 April, 2006

The week began with a show, on Monday, at the University of Arizona, in Tucson: you may recall that we had a “day off” last Sunday, having traveled down from Los Angeles, following the charity show on the Saturday night at the Universal Amphitheatre.

Now, having managed very little decent sleep in the days prior to setting out on this tour – and then having to deal with a fairly intense first four days – I was slightly under the weather when I walked into that venue on Monday morning.

The first thing Cara and I noticed, as we started to set up our computers, was that the Production Office was stiflingly warm. Even though we managed to commandeer a large fan, to cool things down, it was a good few hours before we could enjoy a comfortable environment.

During that time, I was increasingly aware that my (initially mild) cold was starting to take a more miserable grip on me – to the point that, come load-out, I was looking – and feeling - terrible. The local runner had been kind enough to fetch me various medications from the on-campus pharmacy, the most important of those being a pack of “Night Nurse” capsules, three of which I duly swallowed at 1.30 am in the morning before crawling into my bunk on the bus.

As we had a “day off” on Tuesday in Austin (we didn’t arrive there until around four in the afternoon, as a result of an almost nine hundred mile drive) the plan was to sleep for most of the journey and then grab a good night’s sleep at the Austin hotel, before facing the three back-to-back shows in Texas. Said plan was only slightly thwarted when the Texas border patrol pulled the bus over at 7.30 am in the morning, somewhere in the vicinity of El Paso, and demanded to see the passports of all the guys on my crew bus.

Come the next morning (Wednesday) at the Austin load-in, several of the crew commented on the fact that I looked a damn sight more healthy than I had thirty hours previously. I was lucky to “nip the virus in the bud”, as the road (with six hours of sleep being the daily average) is not the best place to shake a clawing sickness. Anyway, somehow, I’m over the worst – and improving.

After Austin we moved on to the Verizon Theatre in Houston followed, on Friday, by a show at the Nokia Theatre in Dallas: by my reckoning, the most organized venue on the tour to date – imagine washers and dryers in the room right next door to the touring Production Office!

As I was due to fly with Rebecca and the band the next day to Chicago, where they had scheduled a five-day recording stint at a recording studio on the outskirts of Chicago (“Death Cab for Cutie” went off to do five of their own shows, during the Franz Ferdinand downtime) I stayed that night at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas. An early start was scheduled for the next day.

I duly arrived in Chicago early afternoon, to be greeted by a familiar blonde (she gets everywhere, that girl) and proceeded, over the next 36 hours, to discover more about Chicago than I had in seven/eight previous fleeting visits, in the last thirty years. I now find myself increasingly questioning whether this life of constant travel is all it’s cut out to be. See y’all soon.


Sunday 26 March, 2006

Well, this week it all began in earnest: back on the road again - comprising of six weeks in North America, with an average of just under five shows a week.

Last time we spoke, I was en-route to Portland Oregon, the location for our first show of the tour. That traveling took up most of Monday, as I had to connect through Seattle before finally landing in Portland at around 6.45 pm. As soon as I was settled in the hotel, I met up with the “Death Cab for Cutie” Tour Manager and Production Manager and – in conjunction with the tour’s recently installed Production Assistant, Cara Greczyn, we spent an hour running through the details for Tuesday’s “Production Rehearsal” day.

It was indeed strange to step back inside the venue where, all those years ago, I had started my first ever American Tour: of course I could recollect very little, if anything at all: the Holiday Inn, where we had stayed, back at that first show, is now a Roadhouse Inn. Even more surprising, there is now a brand new venue (The Rose Quarter) – and associated infrastructure – within the same complex as the old Memorial Coliseum.

I should have taken a little more time to drink it all in, however the fact is that I’ve jumped on this tour at relatively short notice and – while I fully accept that taking on the duties of Tour Accountant - as well as Franz Ferdinand’s Production Manager - may have me on my knees before the end of this tour, I just don’t have a whole lot of time to be standing around.

However, with neither Franz Ferdinand nor Death Cab for Cutie electing to show up on the production rehearsal day (very decent of them to let us get on with sorting everything out) we managed to set up the complete stage and work out all the issues relating to a co-headliner tour.

The two bands were then able to come in early on Wednesday, so that both of them could enjoy a lengthy sound check on the first show day. As is common prior to the first show day on any medium to large arena tour, the Lighting Directors will work through the night to programme their respective lighting consoles. To accomplish this, they ideally need the stage to be fully set so that they can visualize what they are doing. Franz’s Lighting Director started at 6.00 pm on Tuesday and worked through until 2.00 am, at which point Death Cab for Cutie’s Lighting Director, Dan Hadley took over and finished up on Wednesday at 12.00 noon! Glamorous? Mmm.

After the first show in Portland, it was overnight to Sacramento (a ten-hour, 581 mile drive) and a lovely old theatre called the Memorial Hall. Then on Thursday we moved onto Reno and played within the Hilton Hotel complex, in their Pavilion facility. I keep telling my son that the likes of Reno and Las Vegas were not built by winners therefore, in keeping with my “teachings”, I did not allow myself to stray anywhere near the casino.

After Reno we traveled overnight to the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles (now known as the Gibson Amphitheatre) a venue that holds many memories for me, down through the years. Hold on!! What’s this coming up? A day off, on Sunday, in Tucson? A wise (touring) man once said that there’s no such thing as days off – only show days and non-show days. And how right he was.

Sunday 19 March, 2006

Don’t try this at home. In passing conversation with Beverley, towards the end of this week, she calculated I had managed about thirty hours sleep between Monday and Friday and – while I’m not at all proud of the fact, that’s about the size of it.

Tuesday night/Wednesday morning was probably a clear sign that the candle was not only being burned from both ends, but also outward from the middle, in both directions as well.

As occasionally happens, I dozed off in my office seat somewhere in the wee small hours, with tempertatue probably about ten degrees warmer than necessary. Now, as part of my enforced daily routine, when I have so much work to get through in any given 24-hour period (and when the start of any given tour is fast approaching) I always go and collect my daughter Jade from her mother’s house – three miles away – at 8.00 am on week days and drop her off at school ten minutes later: when you have missed as much of your children growing up, as I have, you come to appreciate any times such as these.

Anyway, back to me dozing in the office: all I fuzzily recall is awaking with a start, glancing at my watch and being horrified to see that it appeared to be 8.20 am. As I regained something akin to a reasonable consciousness, it (equally alarmingly) dawned upon me that it was indeed 3.40 am!

I further recall, that - within the next five sleep-induced minutes - as I dragged myself upstairs only to collapse on the bed fully clothed for the next four hours (as with most houses, even warmer upstairs) I was wont to question myself as to what sort of actual madness this was.

That was pretty much the pattern for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I then jumped in the car early afternoon on Thursday and tore down to Manchester to catch the early evening flight to Oslo. On Friday night the Franz boys played the 1300-seat Rockefeller club in the heart of the city, and then the following morning saw them up at the crack of dawn and off to New York for a televised appearance tomorrow (Monday) after which they are due to fly to Portland on Tuesday evening to commence the tour, which kicks off the next day at the Memorial Coliseum.

I stayed back in Oslo, for another day, and therefore I’m currently sitting on an SAS flight, Manchester-bound, before flying off myself to Portland tomorrow (instead of, as mentioned last week, today). This is the first time I’ve ever combined the job of Tour Accountant with Production Manager and I’m interested (and quietly intrigued) to see how it all turns out. Much as though I would rather not be spending six weeks away from my football project, I can at least comfort myself that I’m touring in my favourite territory in the world.

Now, how about this: this show that I’m due to play in Portland is the first ever venue I played in North America (almost thirty years to the month, in 1976) when I was but a young buck Stage Manager with Jethro Tull. Wild stuff, huh? So, here comes a whirlwind six weeks, commencing on the West coast of America and then winding our way through the South, before continuing up the Eastern seaboard and onwards through to Canada. We finish up in Vancouver on 28 April – another one of my favourite cities in the world. So, keep it here for an insight into the world of touring, as the Franz Ferdinand / Death Cab for Cutie hits the road with a vengeance. BFN.

Sunday 12 March, 2006

Thankfully, things are slightly better this week – sometimes I think it’s a blessing when we are kept busy through times like these: while the ability to find a minute or two now and then, just to reflect on the good times and the poignant memories, is almost a necessity, said reflections can be more philosophically dealt with once a little time has passed, after the event.

Before going any further, may I just sincerely thank those of you who took the time to drop me a line and offer your condolences: you know who you are.

Well, on a brighter note, I can finally (and not so exclusively) reveal that I’ve landed the job as Franz Ferdinand’s Production Manager on their upcoming six-week tour of North America, “co-headlining” with the American band “Death Cab for Cutie”.

But, hang on, I hear the more astute of my devotees exclaim: “Aren’t you a Tour Manager or a Tour Accountant?”. Correct. It must be a good fifteen years since I’ve covered such a gig: however, I’ve always laid claim to being a production-orientated Tour Manager, so we’ll see!

It’s a fairly unusual set of circumstances in that the lads preferred to go with a British (Scottish?) person for the job, however it would have proved impossible to have taken on someone “cold” at short notice – primarily because said person would have had to be included on the US work visa petition. Fortunately, Rebecca Travis – the band’s Tour Manager – had added me to the original US group-visa application when she anticipated that I may travel to the States when the band were there last year: hence I still have four months on said work visa.

Now, when Rebecca first called me about the position – about ten days ago – she informed me that the first date was Wednesday 22nd March in Portland and that I should expect to fly out of London on Monday 20th, as the band were planning a day’s rehearsal on the 21st in Portland.

As I was right in the middle of following up the various business leads, secured as a result of my recent trip to the African Cup of Nations, I figured I could probably finish everything to my satisfaction and make the flight on Monday afternoon. I had also promised my Belgium-based colleague, Jean Bosco, that I would make a trip at the weekend to visit him and take in a couple of games – with the intention of contracting to a few select footballers that Jean had been keeping a close eye upon. Seemed like I would just manage to fit everything in – and no more.

Just as luck would have it, Rebecca called me on Monday morning to inform me that the band had – at short notice - agreed to appear on a live show in Oslo next week, Friday 17 March.

This means that I’ve now got to fly to Oslo next Thursday night and then onwards to North America on Sunday, without making it home in between. So, here I am, just back from Belgium with a mountain of work to plough through before I have to leave here at Thursday lunchtime. I will make the flight, but I’ll probably be well asleep before that plane even leaves the ground: Ah, back on the road again, back to my almost-natural habitat. I should have some interesting news for you next week, when my diary – if all goes to plan – will be penned the States. BFN.

Sunday 5 March, 2006

Yes folks, you are party today to one of those rare, memorable, moments: my diary is penned on the day of the week that it’s meant to be done (a Sunday) - and before midnight! I realise that I really need to consolidate this regularity as – entirely through my own fault – I’ve probably cultivated a situation whereby very few of my regulars readers (and gracious thanks go to all of you who reminded me that you’re still actually out there!) are checking in before Tues/Weds of “next” week.

Not one of the greatest weeks I would have to say, as I lost my father on Monday, after his fairly protracted illness. I wasn’t able to be there as, according to the admitting sister at the hospital, my father typically believed this was one of many slight recent relapses, and therefore he would be back in the house a day or so later. Hence, there was no instruction to the nurses to give me a call.

My father had found it tough since my mother passed away in May of 2004 (which was in the middle of the UK sector of the Westlife tour – in Dublin actually – but I don’t recall if I made mention of that in my diary, at the time) as he lived on his own in Tredegar in Wales, 30 minutes from Cardiff.

My younger sister has arrived over from Canada and between us we have the difficult – yet necessary – task of clearing his house over the next week. Over the last few days I have been given cause to wonder if I’m just charging around at great speed for no great cause.

I continue to believe in the eventual success of the football project, although we have chosen to focus on one of the most convoluted – and often dishonest – markets, with the decision to concentrate the majority of our efforts on the African continent. Only yesterday I learn – from another FIFA licensed representative - that a player, whom we have been working diligently on for the past four weeks, may still be under contract to his previous representative. Surely not, I tell myself, as that was my first question to the player when we met to discuss his future.

Football players have been known to “conveniently” forget the contractual period on their previous agent agreement, particularly when the carrot of a lucrative move is being dangled in front of them and (as is often the case in this fly-by-night business that I choose to immerse myself in) they have not heard a peep from their “current” agent for months. Frustrating as it must be for any player in that situation, the fact is that they have a contractual obligation to their current agent and I – for one – have little interest in clandestinely acting for someone else’s client. Too risky.

I particularly mention the above train of events just to highlight the fact that – once in a while (as I’m sure many an “entrepreneur” has experienced as he pursues his sometimes-impossible vision) I do have to question just how much of an uphill struggle I am facing. Thankfully, however – as I trust regular readers of this column will have sussed – it’s not long before I’ve summoned a fresh head of steam and I’m once again careering headlong in pursuit of said dream. Damn fool.

Now, on a slightly different tack once again, I do recall mentioning last week that I may be able to inform you of my next touring project this week. Well, that has taken on an interesting twist so please bear with me and all should be revealed in the not-too-distant future. Suffice to say, it’s never a bad thing to be able to choose between two different offers. That will be done this week.


Sunday 26 February, 2006

It’s maybe about time that the “Diary From the Road” actually started being written from the road again and, with that in mind, I can (exclusively) reveal that there is a fair chance that I’ll be back out on the road by the middle of next month.

Now, if I was in a position to tell, you know I would (however, I have been asked to keep it under my hat for the moment) therefore, being the discreet lad that I am, that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do.

The majority of the past week has again been spent upon consolidating our client base. As most of our players are based on the African continent, much time is taken up just to be able to keep in regular contact with them. Of late, for example, only around one in three calls that I place to Zimbabwe ever goes through.

On the subject of Zimbabwe, we still await the issue of Joel Luphala’s visitor’s visa, to allow him to come into the UK to attend trials at one of the Championship clubs. I’m expecting said club to call up any day now and register the fact that they’re now bored with the whole procedure and want no further part in the proceedings. Really, who could blame them? I have a couple of back-up options warmly nestling on the back burner, however the end of the season is not terribly far away, so let’s hope the British High Commission has some good news for me, by the earlier part of next week.

Closer to home, you may (or may not) have noticed that my lot (The Hearts, of course) have managed to secure themselves a place in the Scottish Cup semi-final draw, taking place tomorrow night, Monday, after somewhat huffing and puffing their way to a 2 -1 victory against Glasgow’s “third” team, Partick Thistle FC. Now, it occurs to me that, if you’re not a native of these shores, you’re probably going to wonder how a football team is blessed with the name Partick Thistle. In his formative years, when he first started attending football games with me, my son figured that “Plastic Whistle” was a far more amusing alternative.

Also in the last four for the semi-final draw is our “arch enemies” – from across town – Hibernian. Now, I’m sure I speak for the majority of Hearts – and “Hibs” – fans when I hope we avoid each other in the semi final. If we’re going to face each other then let’s do in the final and get the job done properly (i.e. a conclusive Hearts win!). We shall see what we shall see.

In closing this week, can I once again assure any contributors to my web site, that I do read all my e-mails and will always attempt to pen a brief reply, if only to let you know that I’m there. Running both my music and football business interests cannot be accommodated within eight-hour days therefore I rarely find time to reply at any length to some of the enquiries I receive, particularly those begging to know how one achieves a foothold in the touring business. It’s definitely not easy as you come smack bang up against the “you need experience for the job but you can’t get the job without experience” syndrome. My break came with a local band – from whom I was paid a pittance – but it allowed me to jam my foot firmly on the first rung of the ladder. It was a slow and deliberate climb from there, but I did eventually manage to move onto bigger and better things. Is that of any comfort at all to those of you who yearn to take to the road? I’ve known of no other way. BFN.

Sunday 19 February, 2006

Well, folks, this month I have the uneasy feeling I’m approaching a major crossroads in my career.

Although Showtime may yet bring a player to a UK Championship club within the next couple of weeks - as a result of our recent endeavors at the Cup of African Nations - we really have to look confidently to this summer when, with a little bit of luck, we may be in a position to move somewhere between four and six international African-continent players to European clubs.

However, to be able to ensure that we take advantage of this growing opportunity, there is a mountain of administrational details to deal with, between now and June.

Now, I know I have the drive and the ability to accomplish this – what I fear I may be considerably short off, is – you’ve guessed it – time. As a result of most of my players hailing from the African continent, many of them are relatively unknown to the majority of European clubs. To rectify this matter requires a concerted marketing push: we must ensure that any interested clubs are continually kept up to date with the progress of any player, in whom they express an interest.

The stringent requirements of the UK Work Permit deem that not all of our players will be eligible to play here. This presents no immediate difficulty, as we are slowly enhancing our relationships with the senior clubs in the likes of Belgium, Denmark, Holland and Germany. Each of these countries has their own immigration laws and guidelines, relating to their professional clubs offering employment to non-European Union players. However, none are as restrictive as the UK.

So, with certain music business projects soon up for grabs, I may have some tough decisions to make within the next couple of weeks. Essentially, I probably need to push on, during the next ten days or so, just to see how far I can get with collating all the player information into a marketable package – not too easy a task, when decent-quality game footage can often prove to be elusive.

While I thrive on my exploits in the music business, I feel that I still have much to offer football, particularly as the standard of player representation in the UK appears to be suffering from a downward slide (I’m fortunate to have another “string to my bow” and I can only wonder at how many of the middle-level agents manage to survive while the transfer windows are closed).

This past week I traveled down to Manchester on Tuesday (romantic fool that I am) and then had no choice but to sit tight in England while I awaited news from Harare on whether or not our Zimbabwean international winger, Joel Luphala, would make it into the country. Alas, he did not. Part of the delay is due to the British High Commission in Harare rightly requiring to satisfy themselves that all paperwork is in order and that our company is acting professionally throughout.

When I found out on Friday morning that Joel required to furnish the British High Commission with some additional documents, I reasoned that he would not be able to fly to the UK over the weekend and therefore returned to my office in Edinburgh, to work on some of the other players. That is where you find me now, grappling with the issue of whether I can step away from the music business for a few months. “He who risks nothing, risks everything” a wise man once said. Mmm …

Sunday 12 February, 2006

The Pilgrimage has come to an end. That’s me back in the UK for a couple of weeks now, at least.

It was certainly a whirlwind nineteen days spent out there in Egypt, however I know we have made some excellent contacts for the future, on the coaching and on the player front – we just have to follow up these contacts and prime them for the future.

As I’ve said before, the focus of world footballing attention will start to point at South Africa, once this year’s World Cup Finals are over in Germany. The next African Cup of Nations is now under two years away (to be staged in Ghana in 2008) but the big year in the African calendar is of course 2010 which will see both another Africa Cup of Nations – venue yet to be decided – and the World Cup Finals themselves, in South Africa.

In the meantime we are still attempting to “extricate” Joel Luphala from Zimbabwe and fly him over here to the UK for a couple of interested clubs to check him out: unfortunately, the continuing unrest in Zimbabwe deems that any visa applications, in relation to any of their citizens visiting a foreign country, are viewed carefully and processed thoroughly.

This week, I’ve certainly worked my way through a good few international calling cards (without those little babies, I would be lost – and close to bankruptcy) attempting to keep track of Joel’s situation as I patiently - no, painstakingly- await news from the British High Commission in Harare.

I actually holed up in Manchester most of this week (returning to Edinburgh on Saturday) in the hope that that the player would make it into London on Thursday or Friday: my experience in dealing with African-continent footballing issued should have alerted me otherwise.

Believe me, there are days – thankfully, not too many – when I wonder if I’m ever going to make my mark in the African continent market in particular, and football in general. There are several members of my lamented profession who would be quite happy to see me slide down the tunnel of despair, in the half-time of my existence - and never show face again.

You know what is quite amazing (and increasingly irksome)? Every time this question of corruption/bungs/backhanders raises it’s ugly head in football, the media keep wheeling out all the “top” agent big shots, to allow them to offer their opinions as to whether these rumours have any grounding. It’s those very agents – some who have been plying their trade for upwards of fifteen years – who have first hand knowledge of just how cack-handed football’s ruling authorities really are when faced with having to root out the actual perpetrators. Those guys taking the moral high ground is akin to Idi Amin attending bible classes.

In closing today, I’m reminded of a line from a Rick Derringer song that goes “Every now and then you know, it’s kinda hard to tell – but I’m still alive and well”. Alive? Sure. Well? That’s probably for some eminently qualified psychologist to determine. A little (but growing) voice tells me that I really should know better. It’s a passion, this football thing and passion – provided it doesn’t totally consume you – will see you through many a dark day – and many a late night. I’m proof of that. BFN.

Sunday 5 February, 2006

Well, as I sit here in Cairo Airport, at the departure gate early today, Monday 6th, thoughtfully reflecting upon the events of the last seventeen days, I wonder just how close I am to reaching the point in my life where my music business interests will play “second fiddle” to my football business.

The pendulum gauge on my football project swings back and forward between two extremes of progress: there are days where I feel I’m so close to the answer, it’s almost palatable. However, there are other days where I feel the Atlantic Ocean is blocking the realisation of my dreams. I continue to maintain that the African continent is a rich source of raw, undiscovered, footballing talent – but some days the job to unearth that talent compares to digging a trench with a spoon.

Currently, we’re certainly “spinning plates” on the football project: Joel Luphala, a talented Zimbabwean international right winger, arrives in the UK at the end of this week (11th/12th) and we are hopeful of landing him a contract at an English Championship club, particularly as the transfer window is closed; Quentin Jacobs, a Namibian international wide-left midfielder, is attempting to extricate himself from his club in Cape Town and could be heading to Holland within the next few days; Brian Badza, the third choice Zimbabwean striker – with a gazelle’s pace – qualifies for a UK Work Permit in September; Kennedy Nketani, a big Zambian defender, is in the same situation.

So you see, we have a few irons in the footballing fire, however ideally we would like to see one of them bear fruit – sooner rather than later. The next week will prove crucial to this plan.

Anyway, where did we leave off last week? I believe we were on our way back to Alexandria, on Monday past, to take in the Zambia/South Africa game, a fairly entertaining spectacle, that finished 1 – 0 in Zambia’s favour. Astonishingly, the South African side (arguably the richest footballing nation on the African continent) have limped home without earning a single point: they will now look to undertake a serious review of their footballing operation, as they prepare for the 2008 African Cup of Nations, the qualifiers for which will start around October of this year.

Tuesday found us back in Port Said to enable us to take in Zimbabwe’s final game at Ismalia (one hour south of Port Said) the opposition this time being Ghana. Zimbabwe was able to depart the competition on a reasonable high, beating them 2 -1. Although the footballing fare was of an impressive standard, Jacob and I will probably more poignantly remember the evening for the fact that we managed – quite unintentionally – to stride straight into the stadium’s V.I.P. seating area without any tickets or any recognizable form of accreditation. Tight security? It’s all just a show.

After meeting up with a few of our Zimbabwean players on Wednesday morning, we made our way back down to Cairo where we spent the next two “off” days meeting up with officials of the various teams which were based in and around the city itself. Friday saw us attending the Egypt v DR Congo, to a packed house at the National stadium, followed by the epic Cameroon v Ivory Coast game on Saturday, where the Ivory Coast finally triumphed 12-11 on penalties! We had earlier watched the Nigeria v Tunisia game – again ending in a penalty decider – as we didn’t have time to make the journey back up to Port Said. Something has got to come out of all of this. Bye for now.


Sunday 29 January, 2006

Greetings from your roving Egyptian reporter here, with news of the last week’s exploits.

When we left off last week I was about to make my way up to Alexandria for the Tunisia v Zambia and South Africa v Guinea games. Jacob was still encountering difficulties with procuring his Egyptian visa, and on top of this, his local travel agent omitted to inform him that – even just to transit through the airport – all Namibians must possess a transit visa. How bureaucratic is that? Jacob is flying from Windhoek in Namibia, via Johannesburg, to Cairo and for the one and three quarter hours that he is in Jo’burg airport (and all the time “airside”!) he has to have a transit visa that, incidentally, costs around £45.00! Jobs for the boys, sorry.

Now, the original plan was good – fly Jacob into Egypt five days ahead of me, thereby enabling him to check out the hotels (particularly those where the teams are staying); the transport infrastructure and to obtain his press accreditation, as he also works for his country’s TV station.

In the end, it is I who ends up being the “advance” man, until Jacob finally arrived on Wednesday. By that time, I had traveled up to Alexandria (£3.50 for a first-class rail ticket on a two hour non-stop journey – no, it’s not exactly a Virgin Pullman but, hey, for £3.50 – what do you expect?).

Following breakfast at the hotel on Monday morning in Alexandria, I enquire of the front desk as to how long the train from Alexandria takes to reach Port Said. Six hours! Well, I thought – as I also discovered there’s no regular bus service – nothing for it but to fly. However, as many of my fellow travelers will concede, taking a flight to any given location is certainly helped by there being an airport at the other end! Port Said, bustling maritime city that it is, has no airport!

The only option then was to be driven there in a “limousine”: again £35.00 to be driven three hours (remembering that the guy had to turn around and drive back to Alexandria once he had dropped me) is a fair deal – only you need to wipe any thoughts of Jakey boy relaxing in some stretched Lincoln right out of your mind. In Egypt “limousine” means better than a beat-up taxi.

In Port Said, I took in the Nigeria v Ghana and the Zimbabwe v Senegal games (two in one evening) and, because we look after some of the lads in the Zimbabwe set-up, I stayed there on Tuesday night as well, taking another “limousine” journey on Wednesday back down to Cairo where – lo and behold – I was greeted by the sight of one relieved Jacob Amaning, finally stood on Egyptian soil.

That night we took in the Angola v RD Congo and Cameroun v Togo games at Cairo’s Military Stadium and the next day we were back up to Alexandra for the next two games in Group C. Next day (Friday), it’s back to Port Said again (more about that “highway” in next week’s diary) to catch our Zimbabwean lads, this time with Nigeria as the opposition – and the winners at 2-0. This time we also stayed an extra day in Port Said, which meant that today – rather than race back down to Cairo to take in the Group B matches taking place there – we motored back to Alexandra in preparation for Zambia’s game against South Africa tomorrow evening. My God, this is like being on the road, touring with a band – but with no days off. See you all next week. Thanks for coming.

Sunday 22 January, 2006

In the interests of keeping this column lively and interesting (and not to rub it in that you may be reading this from the windswept and/or rainy UK), I must confess to penning this week’s entry from the Club Room, on the 26th floor of the Ramses Hilton, in Cairo.

However, I like to believe I am not boastfully wallowing in this perceived luxury: in fact - and bear with me on this, lest you think my opinion is bordering on the arrogant – it’s no less than I deserve.

In respect of the football operation, there is much I can poignantly recall that leads me to believe that I should be enjoying all the luxury I can get. I’ve worked far too hard on my football project for too little financial reward (mostly, upon reflection, as a result allowing myself to become too distracted by the game’s peripheral “moral” issues). On the other hand, the personal rewards, while lightly scattered over the last ten years, have been most satisfying – unfortunately, such personal rewards don’t write cheques for utility bills.

Even many years later, I can easily recall these Saturday nights working late in my Edinburgh office, when I became so obsessed with formulating my football database etc., that by the time I left the building, the bar across the road was already closed (on a Saturday night!). Oh, yes, even by my workaholic (and any other reasonable person’s) standards, that was madness.

I mean, I now have the sexiest club database on the planet, but – in various contributing ways – it’s probably shaved a good couple of months off the end of my life, setting it up.

Someone said to me the other day: (and I’ve learned to take constructive criticism well, provided it hails from a trustworthy and well-meaning source) “Jake, are you going to let this thing go at some point, if you finally realise the dream is unattainable?”. Probably not, I hate to say. God help me.

Oh, sure, there are times (you see, sense occasionally prevails for a couple of minutes here and there) when I have to wonder if I’ll ever crack it. I’m often reminded of the film “Holland’s Opus” where – if I call recall the storyline reasonably accurately – this music teacher (played by Richard Dreyfuss?), spends all his life working at his “day job”, fully expecting that his chance to follow his love of full-time concerto-writing will present itself at any moment – only to wake up one day, close to retirement, to have to face up to the fact that it ain’t gonna happen.

Strangely enough, that thought, and a few others – coupled with the constant bad press that the agency business attracts – is what keeps me going in times of occasional darkness.

And, what of the last week? I’m going to have to summarise here: a frantic Monday finishing up in my office; three trialists at Hamilton FC on Monday night then drive directly to Manchester, where I spent two days working away at blonde central (take that any way you want); Thursday flight to Cairo; amazing opening ceremony for African Cup of Nations on Friday followed by “slow” opening game (Egypt v Morocco); great game on Saturday (Cameroon v Angola). Today, I’m off to Alexandra, where the networking starts seriously. Watch out for my Zambian and Zimbabwean lads, over the next couple of days. When I’m up for it I can walk through walls. Look out, football. BFN.

Sunday 15 January, 2006

A severe (second) week of preparation is now behind me, in respect of my forthcoming visit to the African Cup of Nations, commencing next Thursday, 19th.

There is much networking to be done during the sixteen days I will spend in Egypt, based mainly in Cairo, but with flying visits to Alexandra and Port Said. I’ve been in touch with the majority of the Premier and Championship clubs to make them aware that I will be down at the tournament.

The bigger clubs, as you would expect, have arranged to have some form of scouting presence in place during the event – maybe not the whole time, but more likely to bear a relationship to the talent that they are individually – and quietly – keeping tabs on.

So where do we come into all of this? Well, as I mentioned last week, we have to resist the temptation to go jumping around inconsistently, hoping to establish contacts in every camp and, rather, look to focus our activities with the country’s with whom we have established good working relationships: namely Zimbabwe and Zambia, with Angola and South Africa the next priority.

Sure, countries such as Libya could (arguably) represent an interesting challenge, particularly as they’ve not made it to the final stages of this competition for over twenty years. However, with the greatest respect to their perceived naivety, we can’t be the only player management company that has reached that conclusion, therefore we will probably look to stick to what (who) we know.

On the music-business front (because Beverley keeps asking “Do you have a proper job yet?”) I can explain away my trip by – correctly – pointing to the fact that January is usually the quietest month in the rock ‘n roll touring calendar. Having said that, I happened to mention this fact(?) to Wendy Deans, the owner of the tour catering company, Popcorn, who retorted with the revelation that she has six tours out this month!

Anyway, it’s all been done on my air miles, so that has to represent a significant saving. We’ll see.

Straying back to the subject of football (which I’m wont to do) those of you – like myself – with the game’s best interests at heart will be interested by Mike Newell’s willingness to speak out against the game’s “bung” culture. I fear, however, that the Luton Town manager, with his heart pinned firmly to his sleeve, will enjoy no real support and backing from his fellow managers, particularly those who ply their trade in the English Premiership.

As for some of our “top” agents condemning Mike’s revelations (if that’s what they should turn out to be) I have my own views on that viewpoint, thank you very much.

I’ve claimed on many an occasion that the perpetrators are far too sharp and quick for the very authorities supposedly intent on bringing them to book. The F.A. is further culpable for allowing the amount of registered agents to spiral, in England alone, almost to the three hundred mark. Wanna fix it lads? Then drag yourself away from your cumbersome committee meetings; forfeit a few business lunches; be not intimidated by The Premiership clubs and come talk to Jakey boy! BFN

Sunday 8 January, 2006

The first week of the New Year has certainly been an industrious one for your diarist.

I intend to travel to the African Cup of Nations, which takes place between the 20th of January and the 10th February. At present I am scheduled to return from Cairo on Monday 6th February as I have to meet a potential investor in London, with a view to a future business (football) venture.

Jacob Amaning, our Chief African Scout, will fly up from his home city of Windhoek to arrive in Cairo on Saturday 14th: Jacob will be scouting in more than one sense as he checks out the four nominated stadiums; the various ground transportation options and the general layout of Cairo in respect of the various tasks we have to accomplish during our two and a half week stay.

One thing is for sure: while temperatures will not be sweltering, it will certainly be a damn sight warmer than back home here in Scotland. You see, I’m not a “lie and fry” sort of guy, so provided I can walk out without a jacket, then I’m more than happy. The other great attraction for me of such a climate is the enjoyable experience of being able to eat dinner, sitting out in the evening.

I really don’t know what to expect. I do know that, by “Western” standards, we will certainly enjoy greater access to the coaches and national country officials than we could expect at, say, the European Championships. Of course, I hope to meet, for the first time, the three players that we represent from Zimbabwe: Francis Chandida, Brian Badza and Esrom Nyandoro.

We also have excellent contacts within the Zambian set-up, while Jacob has already done the groundwork that will hopefully enable us to have brief meetings with the officials of the teams of Angola, Ghana, South Africa and RD Congo. We know that we need to employ a fair bit of discipline to guard against spreading ourselves too thin. To that end, we are working to a prioritized list.

I have had much preparation work to undertake this week, mainly in the form of alerting selected associations and European football clubs, that I will be on-site during the tournament, in case we can be of any assistance to likes of, say, Arsenal, who’s scouting staff will be monitoring the games by way of the Eurosport TV channel.

On the music front, I’ve been working on some budgets for Franz Ferdinand for their next touring period, which kicks off in Auckland on January 18th and then winds its way through Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and, finally, Brazil and Argentina. Although they connect through London on their way to Sao Paulo, the guys are essentially away from the UK for a total of forty-seven days. Glamorous? Sure, if your idea of glamorous is to be flying every second day.

I wish them well and once they move on to their US Arena tour, from March onwards, I may yet work for them again. However, it’s no secret that I prefer to do both jobs (Tour Manager and Tour Accountant) simultaneously. I’m not desperate to find anything. By all accounts there is a busy touring year coming up, therefore I’m confident of being back at real work by late February. See you guys next week (I often wonder how many of you are still out there!). It’s been real.

Sunday 1 January, 2006

Strange feeling tonight - as Joe Cocker once said on his “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” album.

As I mentioned last week, I would actually start this week’s diary entry from last Sunday, that being Christmas day. Any Christmas that you can have your 16-year old daughter and her 19-year old brother under the one roof, at the same time, for twenty-four hours, has to be a result.

Having said that, my son did not finish at his part-time job, at a retail outlet in Stirling, until 9.15 p.m. on Christmas Eve: the shop was due to be re-opened at 9.00 a.m. on Boxing Day Morning, therefore all the sale stock had to be marked up before he and his fellow workers left the shop.

It was pushing 10.30 p.m. before we made it back to Edinburgh and – realizing that any pretence at trying to curb the inevitable over-eating habits of this time of year was futile – I allowed myself to be talked into diverting via the Indian restaurant in Balerno village. Being that our dining table was already set up for the following day’s Christmas meal, we resorted to what Beverley refers to as a “floor picnic” (now, if your woman’s happy, I see no reason to disagree).

Pardon me becoming somewhat nostalgic at this stage, but I’m just reflecting on the difference ten years makes in one’s children’s lives, in respect of Christmas. When they were six and nine, they were battering down our bedroom door (at 7.00 a.m.) to drag us downstairs to “present world”. Now we’re hammering on their bedroom doors (at 10.00 a.m.) trying to prise them from their extended slumbers. Of course late-night Tandoori chicken does not particularly help.

Downstairs, I find myself (in typical parental fashion) wondering how they became so big, so quick.

The unwrapping of the presents (with it’s one-person-at-a-time ritual) takes a good couple of hours. Beverley’s daughter, Sophie, has also made the trip North which is pretty decent of her, considering all her own friends are back in the Northwich/Holmes Chapel area. We have made sure there are a couple of extra presents lurking under the tree, to make her feel more at home.

I can also report that Christmas dinner went off with few noticeable hitches – there’s a lot to be said for cooking the turkey off a few hours ahead of time, thereby freeing up the oven to be able to keep the various accompaniments at serving temperature. This may all be routine stuff to you experienced Christmas cooks, but this is cutting edge stuff(ing) to me.

That just left the evening to lie about the living room floor: the inevitable Christmas day “Scrabble” challenge was soon under way, followed by some CD-driven music quiz, which was one of my son’s presents. I actually managed to win that, even with my game partner (Beverley) having to be prodded awake at regular intervals for her opinion on the correct answers. I actually took a photograph of her angelically draped over the corner of the couch in semi-comatose mode and would gladly add it to the website, however certain parts of my body may risk becoming detached.

So, onward into 2006, with no idea of what lies around the corner. Is this finally the year I could crack my football project? Who can tell? Many thanks for your continued patronage. Best of luck.

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