That would be “Where William Hickey meets Michael Caine, again and again and again and again.” Hickey was the house byline on a newspaper gossip column, Clarke’s joke being that either the hack collecting the tittle-tattle had a disappointingly slim contacts book or, more likely, that he was so permanently out-to-lunch he couldn’t be bothered spreading his net any wider.
Well, I’m calling on JCC again. With apologies to the Bard of Salford, what would the European Super League have been in reality but Zlatan Ibrahimovic meeting Harry Kane, again and again and again and again?
Just imagine: the same players, the same teams, the same smug, self-congratulatory first-bumps pre-match, the same mutual admiration society blethers afterwards. The same games, on and on and bloody on for ever.
Kane saying to Ibra: “Hey, Zlat, next time you’re at our swanky stadium you must have a pint from the bar - the glasses fill from the bottom up!” Ibra saying to Kane: “And you, ’arry, must be my very special guest on my private island where we can shoot the wild boar!”
In fact, that’s exactly what the ESL would have been like: a shooting party for the extremely well-heeled where, because it was taking place on an island and the boar couldn’t escape and none of football’s elite could be relegated, everyone would be declared a winner.
And, who knows, maybe the entire league - every interminable, repetitive, not-you-again game - would have had to be staged on Davenso, west of Stockholm, because nowhere else on the continent would be safe from the anger, vitriol and bloodlust of the “legacy fans”. Even then the island might have been blown up, Doctor No-style, taking the dirty dozen’s petro-dollar and hedge-fund owners with it. As it is, the legacy boys blew up the ESL at the planning stage. In just three days. Astonishing.
Hyperbole is the language of football but last week really was astonishing. Astonishingly amateurish PR from the ESL; astonishingly powerful defence of football’s history and traditions from supporters. And right at the beginning an impassioned plea from the sport’s greatest manager that was astonishingly Fife.
Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of all clubs, however small, being allowed to dream big. This wasn’t just a stipulation of European football, it was sacrosanct, a sacred text. If there had been a closed shop like the ESL in his time as a manager then Aberdeen would never have “climbed Everest” and, from his career as a player, Dunfermline Athletic would have been barred from ascending to one camp from the summit. Being a legacy boy myself, his words were enough to prompt me to look out my copy of the club history Black & White Magic and gawp once again at the close-cropped Pars in their neat raincoats on airport tarmac before they saw off English opposition, battled Spanish cracks over three tempestuous games and went up against those Scrabble bad-hands SK Frigg, Spartak Brno and Boldklubben 1903.
Something else that was astonishing: fans of Chelsea, the club of Roman Abramovich, he of the Boeing 767-as-private jet with its Louis XIV-style bedroom and air missile avoidance system, behaving like Extinction Rebellion with a protest that was quick, forceful and the first to achieve the desired result of elite backtracking, withdrawal and snivelling apology.
Because of their oligarch’s billions, their ruthlessness with managers and the suspended John Terry quickly changing into full kit - plus shinpads! - to hold aloft the Champions League trophy, Chelski aren’t many people’s second team. The support, more than Manchester United’s, deserve the derisory tag of “prawn sandwich brigade”. Ah, but this was once the club of the great Charlie Cooke, of fellow Scots McCreadie and Speedie.
Once, the fans were skinheads and not the Dick Emery kind. The Blues weren’t always elite, and their players used to scrap in the second tier on a poo-brown pitch surrounded by stands of seemingly Albanian design. And yet there were the middle-class massive piling onto the unmean streets of SW6 with the wittiest banners of the week, including “Are three yachts not enough?”, which was aimed directly at Abramovich, and best of all “We want our cold nights in Stoke”.
Across London, who between Arsenal and Tottenham cringed most at the ridicule for deciding to call themselves elite? The Gunners are currently just about managing to hold onto ninth place in the Premier League while Spurs haven’t been able to call themselves champs for 60 long years. These two have grown accustomed to flunking big games but the shock and ignominy of losing to their own fans will reverberate for a while, as they should.
So no ESL, at least not in this form, American in construction. It’s strange that the Land of the Free operates no demotion in its own sports but who are we to question, with all our fine legacy, the wisdom of a country which, when it staged the World Cup in 1994, wanted to divide football matches into quarters to create more advert breaks for TV and then for the opening ceremony nominated Diana Ross for what turned out to be the worst-ever penalty miss?
Doubtless the crowd that day, hot dog in one hand and Dr Pepper in the other, were hollering: “Hey man, doesn’t she get to take it again?” The question from Ross might have been “Do you know where you’re going to?” and I put that now to the dirty dozen. Zlat’s island? Best place for you, though I’d feel sorry for the wild boars. The risk of being shot must be bad enough, but imagine having to watch ’arry Kane, again and again and again and again.