Sheffield United will feel all the more aggrieved that Carlos Tévez helped to ensure that West Ham United avoided relegation yesterday as the Barclays Premiership campaign ended in acrimony, anger and the possibility of legal action.
The Argentina forward scored the only goal in the defeat of Manchester United at Old Trafford, where the decision of Sir Alex Ferguson to leave out four first-choice players provoked ire at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United were relegated at the end of their first season back in the top flight. They lost 2-1 to Wigan Athletic, who survived by virtue of a marginally better goal difference.
They have provisionally arranged a meeting this week with the other members of the “Gang of Four” – Charlton Athletic, Fulham and Wigan – angered by the League’s decision.
Times Online 14th May 2007
“Gang of Four” strategy meeting, Nags Head, Sheffield – 14/5/07
In the Chair:
Neil Warnock (Manager, Sheffield United)
Dave Whelan (Chairman, Wigan Athletic)
Alan Pardew (Manager, Charlton Athletic)
Mohammed Al-Fayed and Lawrie Sanchez (Chairman and Manager, Fulham)
Taking the minutes:
Glenn Roeder (nothing better to do)
Neil Warnock took the opportunity to thank his fellow comrades for their time. He was particularly keen to stress that all four clubs must “stick together” despite Wigan and Fulham’s Premiership survival. West Ham are the common enemy here, he went on – “we must all harness our powers and influence to see they are defeated.” Alan Pardew nodded earnestly at this, while Dave Whelan and Mohammed al-Fayed appeared distracted by all the giggling and high-fiving they were doing.
Neil had made a list of discussion points on a flip chart and we went through them one-by-one.
1. Title of the Coalition
Are we happy with the name “Gang of Four”? Pards said he’d been on Wikipedia and found another Gang of Four in China made up of Chairman Mao’s wife and her cronies. “Chairman Mo?? I like that!” said al-Fayed. More high-fives with Whelan. Neil ignored this and moved on to the obvious similarities to Roy Jenkins and his Social Democrats. The general consensus was that both of these groups operated a long time ago but had the gravitas required to symbolise power in the face of adversity. The “Gang of Four” it is. Lawrie said he knew a fellow on the Kings Road – he’ll see if he can sort out some letterhead.
2. Auxiliary Membership
Do we invite anyone else in? Middlesbrough are interested and Aston Villa said they’d support any action against West Ham – largely because they’ve got the same colour kit and recently knocked up 20,000 t-shirts proclaiming Villa as the “Only Claret and Blues in the Premiership” on the assumption that the Hammers would be relegated. Their enthusiasm to the cause was noted, but ultimately disregarded because “Gang of Six” didn’t sound as cool, and I’d forgotten my TipEx and didn’t want to mess up my minutes for point number 1.
Chairman Mo? Anybody? Oh come on - I thought it was good
3. Do we have a case?
Before we could tackle this one, Mohammed al-Fayed started ranting about the Diana and Dodi conspiracy. Could Eggert Magnussun possibly have been involved? Was Henri Paul wearing a West Ham scarf at the wheel of the Mercedes? Did his autopsy reveal he consumed large quantities of whelks and jellied eels prior to the crash?
Action point: Lawrie Sanchez to check.
Neil threw it open to the table and suggested a brainstorming session.
He kicked us off by stating defiantly that there must be some way of bringing those “shady Southern poofters” to book. The English Premier League should be above nefarious under-the-table deals with Iranian businessmen. The whole thing stinks. What kind of manager allows such flagrant rule breaking? It wouldn’t happen at Bramall Lane, would it? There was silence around the table with all eyes on former West Ham manager, Alan Pardew, who was looking out the window sheepishly.
Eventually, Alan said that, at the end of the day, he DID think it was a little bit odd when he turned up for training one day and found the entire Board of Directors smoking big cigars with some Arabs and a couple of swarthy looking fellows haggling over car parking spaces with Marlon Harewood.
4. Implicating the major players
Could West Ham’s new ownership be the only reason they got off? Neil asked Dave to dish the dirt on Eggert Magnusson. Dave did some initial surveillance during West Ham’s 3-0 win in the relegation scrap at the JJB Stadium back in April. “I plied him with herring and vodka until he was teetering on the brink of consciousness,” Dave admitted. “Then I grabbed him by the lapels and told him that his club was run by a bunch of crooks and that unless he dropped the Argie and volunteered for a points deduction I’d knock his Icelandic block off.”
Apparently, Magnusson then soiled himself.
Neil thanked Dave for his sterling work, but the group concluded that they should shift their energies away from the new West Ham Chairman, who was clearly little more than a slightly confused foreigner with a face like a Mekon and a fondness for Bjork.
A break in proceedings as a barmaid wandered over with egg sandwiches. Neil told me I could stop doing the minutes for a bit, but I had to refuse. I had to stay focussed to take my mind off those BASTARDS AT NEWCASTLE. WHAT’S FAT SAM GOT THAT I HAVEN’T, EH? A STUPID EAR-PIECE THAT LOOKS LIKE THE HANDS-FREE KIT ON A CHEAP NOKIA? A WEIRD, SWEATY UPPER LIP THAT ACTUALLY LOOKED BETTER WITH A FUCK-OFF MOUSTACHE ATTACHED TO IT?? GIVE ME STRENGTH!
Another pause while Alan stroked my head and whispered sweet nothings into my hopeless, unemployed ears and Lawrie ran to the bar to get me a new pen.
What other dodgy transfer deals have there been recently? Neil mentioned the Ashley Cole tapping-up scandal but was immediately put in a headlock by a Chelsea goon who crashed in through the pub window after listening in on the meeting thanks to a tracking device attached to a packet of pork scratchings. Eventually he left after I promised him I’d keep our discussions out of the official minutes, and, not to worry, Ashley Cole was rubbish anyway.
Dave and Mo mumbled something about post-season breaks in the Bahamas and scouting missions in Argentina respectively before hastily exiting with an apologetic Lawrie.
“What about the next meeting?” Neil asked, somewhat forlornly. Alan shrugged his shoulders and grabbed his Charlton duffel coat. “Don’t look at me, mate – we’re screwed regardless.”
Neil asked me to stay for one more drink, but I had my ferrets to attend to.
The one in the middle looks shifty to me