by Harry Exclusive
Burley still has his old club car
Saints manager George Burley says that he will give the Championship side a strong Italian influence this season. So what are the chances of seeing Andrea Pirlo or Luca Toni playing down at St. Mary's? "Och no, nothing like that. I got the idea last week when I was eating alphabetti spaghetti. What I'm looking to do is bring in players so that we have a strong squad here. Everyone who follows this league knows that you aren't going anywhere unless you have a large squad. I was thinking 26 players should be ideal; 3 'keepers, 4 full-backs, 4 centre-halves, 5 central midfielders, 4 wingers and probably 6 strikers 'cause you need to score goals at this level." And where does the Italian influence come into this? Are you going to plunder Serie B for some bargains? "Och no, like I was saying - alphabetti spaghetti. How many letters are there in the alphabet? 26, aye? Well, that's the numbers side sorted out, now all I need to do is get 26 players whose surname represents each letter of the alphabet".
Doesn't look much like a lake, more like a river
To help him search for players with surnames that aren't typical in the British game, Burley has enlisted the help of Southampton University Geography lecturer Kenneth Millet. Burley's reasoning was "you don't get many 'Z's or 'X's in this country so I thought I'd ask someone who knew a bit about the world. Y'know, he knows where people have the right foreign names". Millet said "I don't know what the man is on, to be honest. He overheard me in MFI talking to the sales clerk - who is also one of my students - about my job as a geography lecturer. He rushed straight up to me and said 'Geography? So you know capital cities and stuff, aye? Only I'm looking for foreigners with 'X' and 'Z' at the start of their surname'. I think he's a little confused. I did try telling him that I only lectured on physical geography, but he looked blankly at me. I mentioned ox-bow lakes, but he got even more confused and said 'Is he the Colombian fella, plays for Deportivo Cali? I reckon you can get these South Americans dirt cheap. Can't always get a work permit for the poor bastards, though. Has he played in 75% of Colombia's internationals in the last 2 years?'. Anyway, I know nothing about football really, so I went on Wikipedia and sent George the names of a handful of players. I don't know what I'm doing but I'm getting paid a grand a week for larking about on the internet. Happy days, eh?"
Former Steaua Bucharest 'keeper, Tibor 'The Count' Contcescau
Burley's obsession with letters and numbers appears to have taken a new twist. When I tried contacting him through his secretary last week she said that he was "doing his times-tables, he's beginning to freak me out". However, the club released a press statement saying that they have hired Sesame Street's autistic vampire and ex-Steaua Bucharest goalkeeper, The Count, to do some consultancy work for them. Apparently, Burley has asked The Count to select the squad numbers for the Saints for this upcoming season. When I contacted The Count yesterday he declined to speak to me in person. He did, however, promise to leave me an answer machine message. When I received the message last night I was shocked and startled to hear of the decisions he'd made. A full transcription follows:
Count: Hello, Harry. Here is my selection, a little sneak preview for you, ha ha ha. Davis: one, ha ha ha. Ostlund: two, ha ha ha. Pelé: three, ha ha ha. Saganowski: four, ha ha ha. Lundekvam: five, ha ha ha. I haven't got a six yet, ha ha ha. Skacel: seven, ha ha ha. That's all you're getting for now, Harry, ha ha ha. I've got to go, I have to go and count the pixels on my TV, I may be a while, ha ha ha. Take care, ha ha ha.
Abel fucking Xavier
Abel Xavier during his ban for substance abuse
When I spoke to Burley yesterday to ask how he was getting on, he told me "Not too great, Harry. I'm really struggling looking for an 'X'. Turns out that Colombian player couldn't get a work permit, mainly because he doesn't exist. I've sacked that geography twat now, so I've asked Iñigo Idiakez to ask around if any of his Basque mates have a surname that begins with 'X'. I fucking hope so, or else I'm going to have to sign Abel Xavier at this rate. And no-one wants to do that, do they? Anyway, can't stop, Harry. I've got George Weah on the other line, I think he might have a 'Q' for me, with a bit of luck, eh?!"
George Burley is 51 years old.