by Martin Palazzotto

After humiliating himself with his comments on perception, Sam Allardyce amazingly hasn’t learnt to be more careful with his remarks.  When asked for his opinion on the poor state of the England National set-up, Big Sam flouted the politically correct and all those sensitive to matters of diversity by blaming the entire mess on a woman.  On the other hand, the woman is Baroness Thatcher and he does make a fair point, so the new West Ham boss may get away with it.

Yet, when a rather large, blustery, old-school football man managing a struggling club for a pair of millionaire porn merchants decides to take on England’s first female Prime Minister, and a staunchly conservative one at that, it’s difficult not to laugh at the absurdity of the matter.  That is unless one is Karren Brady, for whom the situation may present a bit of an ethical dilemma.  Do you thrust out your chest and stick up for the club, the gaffer and the game in general, or do you put on your most demure power suit and lament the fact that men still don’t show proper professional respect for women?

Perhaps a bonus episode of The Apprentice is in order, with the Baroness Thatcher lining up opposite Big Sam to defend her honour…

Cue credits, intro and music, then up lights

Lord Sugar:  Welcome, ladies and gentleman to a special edition of The Apprentice to decide who’s really to blame for the dreadful state of English football.  Before we begin, I should mention that one of my judging colleagues, Ms. Karren Brady, has something of a conflict of interest regarding this evening’s topic and thus will not be with us.

(The camera switches to an empty space to Lord Sugar’s immediate right, then to a rather buxom woman with dirty blonde hair, a deep tan and even deeper cleavage, the last evident thanks to a low-cut gown, standing next to an obviously uncomfortable Sam Allardyce.  The woman’s identity is hidden behind a pair of thick framed glasses attached to a large prosthetic nose and bushy black mustache)

(The woman frowns and whispers angrily to a technician standing off camera.)

(…What’s that?  Oh, right… yes, of course… Ladies and gentleman, I have been informed that the nose is, in fact, real.  My most sincere apologies.)

(The woman assumes an air of satisfaction and smooths her dress.  Nonplussed, Lord Sugar continues…)

Lord Sugar:  Yes. So, tonight’s project will be judged by myself and Nick Hewer. (Studio audience applauds Mr. Hewer.)  Please allow me to introduce our celebrity apprentices. First, the former leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of England from 1979 to 1990, on the List of Fellows of the Royal Society and the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, awarded the Order of Merit and made a Lady of the Garter (at the last, Allardyce’s companion turns slightly green with envy), the Right Honourable, the Baroness Margaret Thatcher.

(More applause.  Baroness Thatcher offers the camera a hawkish glare and the barest nod of acknowledgement.  Lord Sugar continues…)

Lord Sugar: Competing against the Baroness this evening will be a man who has enjoyed a long and storied career in the game of football.  During twenty seasons as a player, he appeared for Bolton Wanderers, Sunderland, Millwall, the … – ahem – Tampa Bay Rowdies?… (the teleprompter tech nods vigorously and urges Lord Sugar to resume with an exaggerated circular gesture) … yes, well, just making certain, seems sort of shite, dunnit? … Coventry City, Huddersfield Town, Bolton Wanderers again, Preston North End, West Bromwich Albion and, before hanging up his boots after a second turn with Preston, a short but àpropos stint with Irish club Limerick (Big Sam looks puzzled by the use of ‘àpropos’.)  His management career began, again appropriately, at Limerick (Big Sam’s shade of red begins to rival his companion’s green) and continued on through stops at Blackpool, Notts County, Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers.  He has also served as a match analyst on another network and is currently in charge of Championship side West Ham United.  Ladies and gentleman, Sam Allardyce.

(Thunderous applause, which Big Sam greets with a boyish smile and a wave before giving Lord Sugar a reproachful glance)

Nick Hewer: Right then, let’s get right into it, shall we?  The two of you are here to settle differences over some remarks made by Mr. Allardyce, allegedly laying the responsibility for England’s lack of footballing success on the global stage firmly at Baroness Thatcher’s feet.  Do you stand by these remarks, Sam?

Big Sam: (chest puffed out and jaw thrust forward) ‘Course, I do, mate.  I said it before and I’ll say it again:  Since Margaret Thatcher stopped teachers being paid extra money for coaching sports after school, all sporting activities have diminished on a competitive basis. Kids are now more obese and unfit than ever. All the prime young athletes we were ready to develop just aren’t there, so we get a lesser quality of player. It has not just undermined our game, it has undermined many sports in this country and created an unhealthy child. Thatcher killed football, there is no doubt about it.

(In the midst of renewed applause and roars of approval from the studio audience, Baroness Thatcher arches an eyebrow and turns her raptor’s gaze on Big Sam, who takes a fearful step in retreat, only to be nudged back onto his mark by his female accomplice.)

Nick Hewell: Baroness Thatcher?

Baroness Thatcher: (in a stentorian voice comprising equal parts Julia Child and Winston Churchill)  I don’t know exactly which public house Mr. Allardyce was in the habit of frequenting back in the Eighties, but he apparently missed, in his perpetual alcoholic haze, the fact that Britain was in a state of near economic collapse thanks to the greed and avarice of trade unions.

(Murmurs of disapproval from the crowd are cowed by the predatory stare of the Baroness. Clearing her throat she continues).

Of course, people want to provide for their families and, in working hard, deserve to make an honest living, but there is honest and then there is taking advantage (the murmurs take up again).  The Government had to decide between paying teachers to supervise children’s games or keeping enough money in the budget to insure that British sheep grazing innocently on islands off the coast of South America did not fall into Argentine hands.  No British subject, be they a wool-coated ruminant or a wool-headed (glance towards Allardyce) pontificate shall be left to the mercies of our enemies!

(The murmuring is now interspersed with scattered applause, and even a patriotic shout or two.)

Big Sam: A wool-headed what?  (and after his lady-friend whispers in his ear, an outraged…) Here now!

Baroness Thatcher: (overriding Allardyce’s sputtering indignation) In eliminating remittance for extra-curricular supervision, the Government only did what was necessary.  Lord Sugar may be displeased to hear me say so but the current Parliament is having to revisit these austere measures because his Labour cronies have proven again, over the last decade, that they simply cannot stop themselves from spending what they do not have.

Sadly, those who govern Mr. Allardyce’s profession seem to be populated by the worst which Labour has to offer.  Whenever the least thing goes awry, and even when matters are going spectacularly well, those in charge of football clubs, as well as those who follow them, seem to believe that spending a great deal of money will surely make it better.

(Big Sam has suddenly forgotten his fear of Baroness Thatcher’s piercing eyes, and, in an apoplectic fit of rage is desperately trying to get at her.  It is taking every bit of his mustachioed and bespectacled assistant’s strength, her well-toned legs and arms straining as she pulls with all her might on the tails of his jacket, leaning back on the heels of her black Stuart Weitzman six-inch stilettos, to hold him back.)

(The Baroness seems startled by the sudden transformation in her opponent, yet is gamely standing her ground.  Stage hands appear from all sides to defuse the situation, surrounding both Allardyce and Thatcher.  Big Sam’s advisor is jostled in the crush and comes away with her hair disheveled, mustache askew and one heel broken.  When order is restored, Lord Sugar introduces the assignment for the two combatants.)

Lord Sugar: Ladies and gentlemen, in order to settle these differences in a comprehensive and entertaining manner, The Apprentice has decided that Baroness Thatcher and Mr. Allardyce shall test their wits against each other in a special five-a-side football match.

In order to prove that the Tories have the right of economic management through slashing spending, Baroness Thatcher’s squad will consist of members of the serving Conservative Government, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

(The pair, leading out a knot of fellow MPs, looking rather under-dressed in white tees and blue shorts.)

Baroness Thatcher: (clearing her throat again)  Excuse me, Lord Sugar, but do you mean to say that I must lead a group of rather cute (blushing as she steals another glance at her troops) but nonetheless decidedly unathletic politicians (it is now Mr. Cameron whose cheeks flush) into battle against a man whose profession is football management?  I had expected that our tasks would be of a neutral nature, challenging us to translate our skills into a new arena.  This seems dreadfully one-sided!

Lord Sugar: I assure you, Baroness, that The Apprentice has made every effort to level the playing field.  Therefore, for his part, in order to prove that England’s prospects as a footballing nation have been severely hampered by the Government’s refusal to support youth coaching in the school ranks, Mr. Allardyce will command a squad of young children, from the ages of nine through twelve, all in public education, none of whom have had any formal athletic training.

(A very loose looking group of urchins, dressed in red tees and white shorts, shamble onto stage.  Amongst them is an especially fat young boy, his flesh bulging from under his uniform, begging questions regarding proper circulation, with one leg of his shorts having been sucked up into his crotch in a sort of premature wedgie.  He has a permanent look of confusion on his face and the middle finger of his right hand is jammed up his nostril to the second knuckle.  There is also an immensely cheerful girl, freckled from head to toe and topped with fiery red hair tied in uneven pigtails.  Her energy boundless, she dances around her mates poking at them and sticking out her tongue, whilst trying to look everywhere at once. )

(Baroness Thatcher has apparently changed her mind regarding her prospects.  Big Sam, however, is beside himself.)

Big Sam: (fairly screaming into Lord Sugar’s face)  Do you mean to tell me that I’m supposed to get this lot to play football against grownups?  And win?  How does that prove my point? It was me said they were hopeless in the first place.  The only way I can prove that is if they lose, which means I lose, too!

Lord Sugar: (fully composed regardless of the threatening presence of Big Sam less than an inch from the tip of his nose.)  Yes, we considered that.

Big Sam: (somehow moving closer, without making contact)   Oh, you did, did you?

Lord Sugar: (refusing to step back)  Yes we did.  However, in doing their research for this special episode, our crack staff discovered that you had also been quoted as believing it unfair that you had been pigeonholed into one style of management, with one style of club (that being one satisfied with permanent mediocrity).

Big Sam: I said that I could manage Real Bloody Madrid not some ruddy snot-nosed kids!  (The fat boy removes his finger from his nose and, red-faced, hides it behind his back.)

Lord Sugar: Yes, well it’s all a matter of perception, I suppose.

Big Sam: Perception?  I bloody hate perception!

Lord Sugar: Yes, we know, now piss off.

(Whilst Big Sam has been ranting at Lord Sugar, his curvy assistant has been sizing up the competition and chatting with the children.  With a matronly smile peeking out from under her mustache, she comes over, the little red-headed girl in tow, and whispers in Sam’s ear for a moment or two.  Sam’s expression gradually changes from anger to hope to burgeoning confidence and he turns to Lord Sugar.)

Big Sam: Look, mate.  I apologise for the strong words, heat of competition and what-not.  Our situation may be workable.  We’ll just have to do our best and muddle through.

Lord Sugar: (his gaze pointedly not on Allardyce’s advisor)  That’s quite alright, I understand.  Good luck to you.

Baroness Thatcher: (returning after having acquainted herself with her side)  Excuse me, M’Lord but there is a small problem.

(Lord Sugar arches his eyebrow in anticipation)

Baroness Thatcher: Well, it seems that I failed to notice at first, as he was at the back of our group, but why is the Leader of the Opposition included in my squad.  He’s hardly someone whom I would expect to work with us!

(Now standing off to one side of the group, a glowering Ed Milliband is watching the Baroness and Lord, suspicion written on his face, plain as day.)

Lord Sugar: I apologise Baroness but we had no choice in the matter.  Were a representative of Labour not included in your team, there would be issues regarding equal time.

Baroness Thatcher: (after a moment’s consideration)  Yes, I see.  Well, we too shall just have to make do.  Thank you, M’Lord.

Lord Sugar: (addressing the studio audience, gestures to a wall at stage right, which, on cue, begins to rise slowly into the rafters)  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Apprentice Arena.  It’s not Wembley but it will serve.

(Behind the barrier, a small artificial playing pitch is revealed, suitable for five-a-side action.  Benches with coaching boxes de-marked are situated on the near side and, on the far, a temporary grandstand has been erected.  Ushers are, well, ushering the audience into the stands and distributing match programs.  Big Sam, his partner suddenly nowhere to be seen, has staked out a half of the pitch and is putting his charges through their paces.  It is not a pretty sight and a frustrated Allardyce is running his hands through his hair, barely resisting the urge to tear it out in great clumps.  Meanwhile, Baroness Thatcher has marshalled her MPs and is rearranging her team’s benches, moving one to the rear, rather than their original side-by-side layout.  A single chair is also set up on the opposite side of the surface for a decidedly unhappy Ed Milliband.  Once all is prepared, Nick Hewer, accompanied by two well-dressed and familiar looking figures, addresses the audience.)

Nick Hewer: Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you your announcers for this evening’s match, straight from the Beeb’s Match of the Day programme, Messrs. Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.  (The pair wave to a receptive audience.)  Gentlemen, we’re almost ready to kick off, so I’ll leave proceedings in your capable hands.

(As Hewer walks off to take his seat in the front row of the stand, alongside Lord Sugar, Big Sam’s assistant reappears after a hasty wardrobe change.  Gone is the elaborate gown and expensive heels, replaced by a close-fitting kit, matching that of the children but low-cut in the front, with very short shorts, knee-high socks and matching trainers.  A bright red cap with a rainbow of dazzlingly shiny accoutrements embroidered above the bill, forming the initials KB, sits jauntily on her brow.   Underneath the cap, her hair has been bound into a long ponytail and her handlebar is once again in place.  As she strolls past the presenters, she smiles seductively and strokes a startled Shearer under the chin.)

Gary Lineker: Well folks, this should be an interesting encounter.  The MPs certainly have the advantage in size and experience, although the Tykes’ goalkeeper must weigh at least fifteen stone.  (The fat boy is standing in the small five-a-side goal, the twine barely visible behind him, plumbing the depths of his nostril once more, whilst practise balls bounce harmlessly off him)  It will be hard to sneak one past him today, I’ll wager.  What do you think, Alan? … Alan?

Alan Shearer: (still staring after the inviting bottom of ‘KB’, the former Blackburn and Newcastle striker is startled out of his reverie)  What’s that?  Oh yeah, the keeper.  He is a porker isn’t he?  Sorry guv, I was distracted.  Won’t happen again!

Gary Lineker: (chuckling)  No worries, mate.  Tell me what do you think of the MPs?

Alan Shearer: Come on now, Gary, you know I don’t like to mix politics with football.  Everyone should make up their own mind on who they want in Downing Street.  The ordinary folks don’t need my opinion.

Gary Lineker: No Alan, I mean on the pitch.  That’s David Cameron out there and Nick Clegg, up front, with Vince Cable, Ken Clarke and Theresa May in the back.  George Osborne, the Chancellor, is in goal.  How do you think they’ll do?

Alan Shearer: Apologies again, Gary.  I guess I shouldn’t have chucked my game notes.  I thought these blokes looked familiar but I couldn’t work out where I’d seen them play before.  I’ll tell you this, though.  Baroness Thatcher’s starting five have potential.  None of the Tories are going to put up with any nonsense from the kids, and Clegg and Cable offer a bit of dynamism to the side.  With the stingy Osborne in goal, it’s going to be tough on the Tykes.  The Tories could very well run away with this.

Gary Lineker: Interesting outlook, as always Alan!  Well, the match is underway and how they convinced Mark Clattenburg to officiate this affair, I’ll never know.   Goodness, he’s going into his pocket already!  The little red-headed girl has just yanked down Business Secretary Cable’s shorts and is giggling over in the corner.  That’s a definite yellow card.  Clattenburg is stamping his authority on this match early.  He’ll have none of those hijinks, today!

Alan Shearer: Funny story, Gary.  After we beat Spurs in the ’99 FA Cup semifinal, we were celebrating wildly in the clubhouse at Old Trafford and, emboldened by the bubbly, I yanked down Nolberto Solano’s shorts.  He was a good sport about it, as we were heading to Wembley, but that’s how he got the name Nobby!

Gary Lineker: I’d never heard that one before, Alan.  Thanks for sharing.  I’ll tell you what, though, the Tykes aren’t really very organised.  They all seem to be doing their own thing.  That little ginger-headed girl is climbing on one of the television cameras and the cameraman can’t get her off.  Big Sam’s assistant is trying to coax her back onto the pitch but Allardyce himself is fit to burst.

Alan Shearer: Management is never as easy as they make it out to be, Gary.  I can tell you that from first hand experience.  By the way, do you think Sam’s assistant dyes that mustache?  It doesn’t seem to go with the rest of her hair, does it?

Gary Lineker: (choking slightly on his reply)  I really couldn’t say, Alan.  Back to the match, however.  The Tories don’t seem to be capitalising on the Tykes lack of shape.  They’re having their own communications issues, with things breaking down along Party lines.   Cameron and his lot, when they have possession, are refusing to get the Lib-Dems involved and not a lot is getting done as a result.  What do you think, Alan?

Alan Shearer: I think the Tyke’s assistant manager has all the shape they’ll ever need, Gary.  Oh, there goes the half-time whistle.  That was really quick, wasn’t it.

Gary Lineker: Yes, it was, Alan but then this is just a half-hour show.  Still, it’s a scoreless affair as the two managers address their sides.  Let’s listen in….

Big Sam: What’s the matter with you lot?  You act like you’ve never kicked a ball around in your lives?  (Five wide-eyed faces look back up at him innocently, one partially hidden by a meaty paw guiding a probing digit.  A couple of the Tykes shrug their shoulders, noncommittally.)  You haven’t?  (More shrugs and a few nods.)  Christ, we’re done for!

KB: Sam! Don’t you dare use a word like that in front of children!

Big Sam: (sheepishly turning to the children) Right, you’re right. I apologise to everybody. You shouldn’t use those words. (and then back to KB) But we are done for. Right cooked if nobody can kick a ball!

KB: We’re not done for! In case you haven’t noticed, the Tories are pathetic. They can’t even work with the Lib-Dems. All we have to do is pull together and have a bit of fun. Besides, Polly and I have a trick or two to try out in the second half. (The little red-headed girl smiles up at KB in anticipation.)

Polly: Can I pull down the PM’s trousers? That would be fun; he never smiles.

KB: No, luv. You can’t pull down the PM’s pants. If you do that again, the referee won’t let you play anymore. Here’s what you can do, though…. (KB kneels down to whisper instructions into a happy Polly’s ear.)

Big Sam: (sizing up his goalkeeper) What’s your name, lad?

???: Ricky, sir.

Big Sam: Okay, Ricky. Well, you’re doing a really good job but why are you always picking your nose?

Ricky: Well me mum says it’s a nasty habit but it just feels right, sir.

Big Sam: (chuckling) Well don’t stop then, son. I swear you were born to be a goalkeeper. Whatever you do, just stay right between the sticks, yeah?

Ricky: Yes, sir.

Big Sam: There’s a good lad. (Then turning to the rest of the Tykes) Okay, now for the rest of you. Let’s see if I can set you right on how to play a bit of footy.  Pay attention, now, I’ve only a minute or two.

(Meanwhile, not far away…)

Baroness Thatcher: Honestly, what is wrong with you lot? They’re just children. You’re men and woman in charge of one of the greatest nations on Earth. You should have them eating out of the palms of your hands… Actually, that gives me an idea.  Home Secretary, would you be so kind as to go to the studio commissary and grab up all the chocolate and treats you can find?

(Theresa May nods her head and scurries off to perform her assigned task.)

David Cameron:  Madame Baroness, I apologise for our lack of success thus far, but it is very difficult working with the Lib-Dems in this damnable coalition.  We just can’t seem to agree on anything.  Still, even if we could overcome our differences, I see no way past that massive excuse for a child that Allardyce has planted in front of their goal!  He’s more like a Mastodon than a moppet and the Lord only knows just what he’s attempting to excavate from his nose!

Baroness Thatcher: (her eyes narrowing as she tires of Cameron’s excuses) You let me worry about the ‘Mastodon’. He’ll be no problem. I’ll take care of the Lib-Dem’s as well. Just you make sure that you finish when the time comes. I’ll not have this loudmouthed footballer disparaging my reputation!

(The PM ‘s head bobs in obedience and he turns back to the pitch as Mark Clattenburg blows the whistle ahead of the restart.)

Gary Lineker: Well, Alan, we’re ready for the second half. Big Sam is trotting out the same five he began with but Baroness Thatcher has already made use of her two permitted substitutes. Business Secretary Cable and Deputy Prime Minister Clegg have been sat down, shocked and none too happy it seems, whilst two Tory backbenchers assume their place.

Alan Shearer: No surprise there, Gary. The Lib-Dems just weren’t fitting into the squad and really don’t have the clout to complain about their lot. With all the Tory’s pulling in the same direction, matters may go harshly for the Tykes, now. By the way, has anyone seen Ed Milliband? He isn’t in his seat any longer.

Gary: Sharp eye, Alan! I’d missed that, but he was never likely to figure into the Baroness’ scheme, so his absence is probably of little consequence. Ah, there goes the first kick of the half; we’re underway again.

Alan: The Tories certainly look much sharper.

Gary: That they do and what’s this? The Home Secretary Teresa May is approaching the Tykes’ goal. She’s well offside and has something in her hand.  Is that a candy bar?

Alan: I believe it is, Gary! A Snickers bar from the look of it.

Gary: Oh, this is devious, indeed! Big Sam is shouting at Clattenburg but the official is unimpressed and waves play on. The keeper is eying up the Home Secretary and the treat she is offering. He casts a hopeful glance towards Allardyce, who is waving his hands frantically. Now, he looks back at the treat again and now back to his gaffer. Big Sam is on his knees, hands clasped in front of him, begging profusely!

Alan: I think the word you were looking for was profanely, Gary.

Gary: You may be right, Alan. No, it’s all too much, the keeper has gone for the bait and Theresa May has coaxed him out of goal. Cameron swoops in and deposits the ball in the back of the net. It’s one-nil for the Tories! Cameron has run to the corner and is celebrating wildly. It’s a surprising show of emotion from the Conservative leader. He has whipped off his shirt and is twirling it madly over his head. Much of the crowd at that end are shielding their eyes and Clattenburg has brought out the yellow card again, this time for excessive celebration.

Alan: That was a horrific display, Gary. It should have been a straight red!

Gary: I can’t really argue the point, Alan. I hope we’re not showing the replay to the home audience, it’s very graphic stuff.

Alan: Well, Clattenburg has the situation in hand, Cameron’s shirt is back on and we’re ready to restart. I can’t get the image out of my mind, though. I think I need a good, stiff shot!

Gary: Steady, man, steady. We’ll get through it.

Wait a moment! The Tykes are mounting a bit of a fightback, now. They’ve gotten the ball up to their ginger-headed forward and she’s breaking for goal. Clarke and May are closing on her, however. They’re right on top of her, now… what’s this?

She’s burst into tears and they’ve blanched and fled. She’s bawling like a newborn now as she races in on Osborne. Amazingly, he is shrieking and has run behind the goal, cowering in fear. The ginger girl, Polly is it, is smiling happily now as she levels terms for the Tykes.

It seems those were crocodile tears, Alan!

Alan: It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, Gary. Everyone knows that politicians won’t go near a crying child. It’s anathema to them. Political poison, as it were. You have to hand it to her, though. She’s pulled it off brilliantly, making it seem fresh and original.

Gary: Well said, Alan. It seems we have a match on our hands. The tables have turned and, if young Polly can keep the tears flowing, this may turn into a rout!

Alan: Wait a moment, Gary. We’ve only just restarted and Clattenburg has blown the whistle. He has an angry look on his face and out comes the red card. Is it all smudged in chocolate, though?

Gary: Yes, it is, Alan, and the red card seems to be for the massive Tykes netminder, Ricky. Apparently, he’s gorged himself on the Home Secretary’s stash and has smeared the ball and anything else that comes into contact with him or it. There’s sticky, gooey chocolate everywhere.

Alan: Well that seems a bit harsh, Gary, but then, you can’t just stop the match and hose the kid down, can you?

Gary: No, Alan, I suppose you can’t.

Alan: It’s a tough break for Big Sam. He’s going to be down a man, a very big, important man, and will need to find a new keeper. I don’t know how you replace Ricky; he covered so much of the goal.

Gary: It will certainly be a tough decision, Alan, but something has to be done. Well, it appears that he’s moving Polly back into goal, as she is his only other talented player. Big Sam is resorting to familiar tactics here, Alan, playing for the draw.

Alan: Yes, that seems to be the plan, Gary, although it appears that Allardyce is also making a substitute, taking off one of the other Tykes and bringing on someone new. Who is that?

Gary: I honestly don’t know, Alan. I hadn’t noticed him before. He certainly is a towering young man, though, and seems to have an awful lot of body hair for someone so young. And don’t those sunken eyes remind you of…

Alan: Sorry to interrupt you, Gary, but that’s Ed Milliband! I’d stake my life on it.

Gary: You’re absolutely spot on, Alan! That is Milliband and the Baroness Thatcher is furious! Clattenburg surely won’t allow this….

Alan: Well, he appears a bit confused, Gary. Milliband does have that childish look about him.

Gary: You’re right again, Alan. And it seems that Clattenburg is going to allow the substitution to take place. The Baroness is beside herself!

Alan: There won’t be much time for Milliband to make an impact, though, Gary. Clattenburg is already looking at his watch.

Gary: Yes, he is, Alan. Oh, but look! Milliband has picked Cameron’s pocket and has only Osborne to beat. Now, he has circled right around the on-charging Chancellor. The goal is wide open, Alan, it’s just gaping, waiting for him to finish. My word, what has Milliband done? In his excitement, he has skied his effort into the stands, well above the goal! And there is the final whistle from Clattenburg. This match ends in a draw.

Alan: Yes, Gary. It’s a massive opportunity gone wasted, isn’t it? It’s all too typical of Milliband, though. Just when he has Cameron and the Tories dead to rights, he ends up going way over the top. A shame, really.

Gary: Well, the Baroness and Big Sam are shaking hands on the touch line. Good English sportsmanship to the end. Oh, my!  Big Sam has taken the Baroness in an embrace, dipped her and planted one right on her lips.

Alan: That’s not English sportsmanship, Gary, it’s French foreplay. To think that children are looking on!

Gary: Very distressing, indeed, Alan, but it’s time for us to turn the show back over to Lord Sugar and Nick Hewer…

Lord Sugar: Thank you, Gary and Alan.  Well, ladies and gentleman, there you have it. The contest ended in a draw, so the matter of who is responsible for England’s malaise remains unsettled and, as the two parties seem to have – ahem – settled their differences, there isn’t much more we can say on the matter.

Nick Hewer: There is one piece of unsettled business that requires resolution before we say good evening, however.

Lord Sugar: Yes, Nick, there is.  Karren, we know it’s you.  Take that ridiculous tuft of hair off your lip and come here!

(An abashed Karren Brady removes her disguise and stands brazenly before her two co-hosts.)

Nick Hewer: We have to admit that you’ve done an admirable job with these children, Karren. In fact, without your help, they probably wouldn’t have realised the success they did…

Lord Sugar: Yes, however, you were expressly forbidden from interfering and you did so anyway. I’m afraid there’s only one thing for it. Karren Brady, ….

Lord Sugar & Nick Hewer (Loudly in unison): YOU’RE FIRED!

Martin is the associate editor of ‘Man and Ball‘, an exciting new monthly football magazine which launched in June.