This article originally appeared in the Cambridge United matchday programme on 16 April 2016.
This real, but edited, 1970s phone conversation between two football club chairmen gives an insight into what sometimes goes on behind the scenes when one club covets another’s employee. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Camberwick Green FC chairman: You do realise I’ve already had an argument with one club over Windy Miller?
Trumpton FC chairman: No, I don’t actually.
CGFC: They very quickly withdrew. I must tell you I spoke to Windy and he says he’s not going on any club’s ‘shopping list’. He’s been reading the paper and he says he’s not really interested.
TFC: That’s fair enough. I suppose he’s been reading about the Chippy Minton business.
TFC: Well, it’s very unfortunate because I haven’t even spoken to Mr Minton, and all this is because of the Trumpton press and the rather large mouth of our vice-chairman. It caused me a great deal of embarrassment yesterday as the story appeared on the back page of the Daily Beast.
CGFC: As a matter of fact my secretary forestalled your local paper from getting hold of me just as you came on. We all get into this situation with the papers, I’m afraid. Our local paper has been on to me this morning and I have denied having anything to do with it until I’ve had a chat with you. I don’t know how you want to take it from here, but you must appreciate that Miller is under contract to us. If you take him we are going to want substantial compensation.
TFC: Yes, I understand that.
CGFC: Having said that, if Miller said he wanted to go we would not stand in his way. He’s done a jolly good job for us and we still want him to do so.
TFC: We would be prepared to pay compensation. When you look round for a new manager you have a shortlist of names and Windy Miller was at the top of the list, so I would like to have a word with him even though he has probably been put off by the publicity. Even if I get ‘no’ for an answer, at least I have had the chance to clear the air a bit.
CGFC: Bearing in mind what I have said, I and the board don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t talk to him.
TFC: OK. That is a fair enough answer.
CGFC: I’ve had dealings with two clubs. When Miller came to us from Chigley they served a writ on us. Mind you, they withdrew it in the end, but when Pippin Fort Wanderers came after him we stopped that pretty short, and that was 18 months ago. The situation is slightly different now.
TFC: I wanted to do this whole thing above board and chairman to chairman, but this newspaper thing did not help at all.
CGFC: I don’t know what you are going to do at your end, but I propose to deny it to our local paper. Your local paper is trying to get hold of me. I’m half inclined to say I still don’t know anything about it.
TFC: I shall deny it completely from here. Thank you very much.