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Book review: Be careful what you wish for

If you were suddenly rich beyond your wildest dreams, would you buy a football club?

By the age of 36, technology maestro Simon Jordan had made £40 million. Then in six years he lost it all supporting Crystal Palace.

Literally supporting them, that is, as he sacrificed his entire fortune to keep everyone, from Arsenal Football Club to Ade Akinbadbuy, in the luxury lifestyle they expect.

Be careful what you wish for is the story of how a sharp businessman was taken to the cleaners after he saved the club he loved.

You have to feel for a man who sacrificed everything, all that he’d sweated blood to achieve, just to save his local club. And what thanks did he get? Mr Akinbadbuy – who was paid sixteen grand a week for six month’s of inactivity – picked up a chair and threw it at a window after being asked to attend a club event. Colleagues conspired against him. People queued up to despise him.

I read this wondering: how can one man be so businesslike, and yet so gullible?

The story has wider implications than Simon Jordan (pictured) however – and Jordan is very wide indeed. This is a gripping story of how common sense can’t survive in a football environment.

It’s a sort of Geek-tragedy, where IT entrepreneur Jordan is lured onto the rocks by the sirens of football and fame. Well it’s more a tragi-comedy, as Jordan tells a great story and plays it for laughs, laying into all the people who parted him from his money.

The journey described in this book is a berserk rampage of a man retrospectively settling scores, in which the anti hero shoots down everyone from player’s representatives, football managers, chairmen, fans, footballers, footballers parents, newspaper columnists and even TV stars.

No turn goes unstoned. David Dein, Arsene Wenger and even the newly sainted Tony Adams doesn’t escape Jordan’s comic cruelty. Terry Venables is accused of robbing Palace twice in four years.

Football agents get the hammering they deserve, as do the feckless players whose greed is so easily exploited by the agents. David Gold, the porn publishing chairman of Birmingham City who Jordan wants to see impaled on one of his dildos, takes a spanking.

Jordan shows his mettle, reducing hard man Neil Ruddock to tears. Which is nice to read.

It’s Jordan’s relationship with managers which provides the most fun. Previously, I’ve always felt sorry for the way managers are dumped by their bosses.

Serial sacker

As chairman of Crystal Palace, Simon Jordan was a serial sacker. Palace went through managers like Kenny Dalglish going through transfer funds.

And yet, having read this book, you can start to appreciate the chairmen’s perspective. Why should chairman stay loyal to managers, reasons Jordan. You can usually see how things will progress from an early stage.

Jordan was never afraid to dismiss former ‘Legends’ like Steve Coppell, Peter Taylor, Alan Smith and Steve Kember.

The drunken interview rages of Stan Ternent and Mike Newell make for fascinating reading. Why Trevor Francis was ever hired still remains a mystery.

Steve Bruce emerges with some credit as a great manager, although he did a runner at the first opportunity.

Ian Dowie, a rocket scientist by training, proves to have the biggest capacity for stupidity, who turned from a brilliant manager to a buffoon in the space of a season.

Finally, Neil Warnock arrives and proves he’s the greatest, most honest manager the club could ever wish for. But by this stage, Jordan has somehow steered the club into another financial crisis and the club implodes, taking Jordan’s fortune with it. It’s often clever people that do the stupidest things.

Maybe that’s what this book is about. How football makes idiots of us all. No hang on, it’s about entertainment. And very entertaining it is too.

If you ever make a fortune and fancy buying the club you’ve always supported, Be careful what you wish for is the book for you.

Personally, I hope Simon Jordan makes another fortune and comes back to Palace, as a manager, with a kind hearted coach to play good cop to his bad cop with the players. Be careful what you wish for.

By Nick Booth

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