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Brian GlanvilleIn the words of Benjamin Disraeli, “The defects of great men are the consolation of dunces.”

So the list of verbal solecisms, cruelly categorised by Private Eye as Coleman Balls, can safely be dismissed as mere marginalia, after David Coleman’s much regretted demise.

In the same genre, I remember an episode hours after England had beaten West Germany in the Final of the 1966 World Cup. This after falling a goal behind early on when left back Ray Wilson so untypically blundered with a weak misdirected header, enabling the Germans to go ahead.

Cheerfully interviewing the England players on a balcony of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, Coleman came to Wilson.

This more or less verbatim is what ensued. Coleman: “Ray Wilson, the England left back. That was a bad moment wasn’t it, when you headed straight down to Haller and he scored!”

“Everybody makes mistakes,” said Wilson, wretchedly.

At last it came to Harold Shepherdson, the England trainer. I believe you were sitting next to Alf Ramsey. “Yes,” said Shepherdson, curtly, “that’s my place.”

“And at one moment, Alf Ramsey, told you to sit down.” “Yes.”

“What were you doing?”

“Standing up.”

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The name of Hayden Foxe suddenly turned up in the press the other day. A somewhat mitigated blast from the past. It was recalled that the Australian centre back, then playing for West Ham United, a dozen years ago, distinguished himself at a team’s party held at a London club called Sugar Reef by urinating while standing on the bar. Another player urinated. All of them were thrown out. Foxe was obliged to pay the £2,000 bar will and was himself fined two weeks wages by Hammers.

I resurrect this somewhat squalid story because I remember the saga of West Ham United, Foxe and their then manager, Harry Redknapp. I was then a member of the small appeals committee which met regularly at a Mayfair hotel to decide an application by foreign players who had been refused a permit to play here. Harry recommended him fervently, insisting that Juventus were hot on his heels. In the event, the committee split pro and contra, which meant, under the Department of Employment regulations, that to Harry’s chagrin the appeal was rejected.

But at the time of the Sydney Olympics, Harry, and Foxe, tried again though I was under the impression that once turned down an appeal could never be renewed. West Ham and Harry produced a small pile of recommendations and eulogies of Foxe, mostly in the Aussie press, plus footage of him in action.  What I knew at the time was that Foxe playing in the Australian Olympic soccer team had with an error given away the goal whereby Italy won the match and eliminated the Aussies. Again the panel split two against two, which means that once more Foxe was rejected.

Shortly afterwards at a press conference at Upon Park following a match. Harry raged about the decision asserting inter alia that while someone from Australia, our allies in the Second World War, had been rejected, a German – from a country that had been the enemy had just been awarded a permit. He didn’t look straight at me but then he hardly needed to. In the event he had to apologise to the Department for his tirade. And Foxe eventually followed him to Portsmouth. Rather than Juventus.

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When Arsenal last met Spurs in the FA Cup at Highbury in 1949, I saw it from the stand. Spurs blundered terribly by dropping their influential inside left, Eddie Baily, replacing him with the obscure Harry Gilberg. Gilberg was an irrelevance, Ronnie Burgess, Spurs attacking Welsh left half, left huge gaps exploited by the dazzling little Arsenal inside-right Jimmy Logie.

The Gunners won 3-0 in a canter. Arthur Rowe would arrive the following summer, ex-Tottenham skipper and centre half, to revitalise the team with push and run, leading them to Second and First Division titles in successive seasons. Baily outstanding.

By Brian Glanville

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