Football has been described as the “beautiful game” — but what about the ugly side to the sport that so enthrals millions of fans all over the globe (as well as the small band of Bognor Regis Town fans who have, very much under the radar, set up a colony on Saturn)?
Anyway I’m talking about the sordid and the secret happenings that have tarnished football over the years. Scandals have come and gone. From drug smuggling operations involving the catering staff at Old Trafford, home to Manchester United, to the clandestine trading of nuclear weapons by a former editor of the match day programme of Everton, no less!
These are stories that remain largely forgotten, rarely retold and ignored by the clubs when they do rear their heads; the threat of negative publicity revisited is the main reason. But, not all of these sorry tales of woe will go away…
One such story involves the groundsman at Elland Road, a chap by the name of Roy O’Varovers, and his obsession with owning the world’s rarest, and most expensive, racing pigeon. A little bird, for that is all it is after all, which was given the name Revie’s Boy, in tribute to former Leeds boss Don Revie, who won a clutch of silverware while manager of the Whites in the late 60s and early 70s.
Now, owning Revie’s Boy wasn’t going to be easy. The pigeon was the superstar of the hobby described as a “sport with a single starting gate and a thousand finish lines”. But the fact that it was owned by the third Duke of Southend, a former multi-millionaire who had fallen on hard times, offered Roy his chance. Revie’s Boy was up for sale for £1million. Oh, also you have to remember that our anti-hero, Roy, was earning around £400 a week at the time of the affair, back in 1999.
But Roy had a plan, Illegal as it was, but a plan none the less. The manager at Leeds at the time was Leary O’David, and he had a collection of priceless peacocks which he used to transport to the ground so they could have the run of the Elland Road grass while he took charge of affairs at the club. It was during one such free-roaming sessions for the peacocks that Roy struck. He managed to snaffle one of the creatures, whisk it out of the stadium and into his Ford Transit. Next, he text O’David the following message: “I have your peacock. No harm will come of it for now. BUT it will meet a grisly end unless you pay a ransom of £1million.”
O’David was distraught. But like Roy, he too had a plan. The Leeds gaffer had been sniffing (figuratively, of course) around Newcastle midfielder David Batty and the phone call was made to Ruud Gullit, the then Toon chief. O’David offered £4.4million — but told his board of directors the fee was actually £5.4million, hoping they would never find out. The Leeds executives gave O’Leary the £5.4mil in cash and the deal was done; Batty joined Leeds for his second spell.
Of course, O’David pocketed the extra mil, handed it to Roy for his prized peacock. Roy, delighted, in turn splashed the cash on Revie’s Boy. Yes, the Leeds hierarchy found out soon enough that they had been duped into handing over an extra million smackeroos — but they reckoned the scandal would damage the club and chose to remain tight-lipped. Thus, the story of the pigeon-fancying Leeds groundsman, a priceless peacock and an over-priced David Batty was never told…until now!