World order and how America continues to play its vital part in it is the daily duty for President Donald Trump these days — but as fans of Southend United will tell you, it could easily have been the Roots Hall agenda at the top of his to-do list. And very nearly was.
Yes, the leader of the free world (seen by many as a bouffant-bonced buffoon while others admire his hard-line politics — and his missus) almost bought a controlling interest in the Shrimpers back in 1999. Had he done so you’d have got decent odds on Trump taking the Essex outfit to the very top.
At the time of his proposed takeover, Southend were owned by former Coronation Street star Chris Quinten. It all came about when the soap lothario was at one of Jeffrey Archer’s infamous egg sarnie rooftop parties when he chanced on “the Donald” and put it to him that he should take an interest in the Beautiful Game. Moreover, suggested Quinten, he could do him a favour and buy Southend from him.
Surprisingly, Trump was keen (and no, he never drinks). Fortuitously, for this story at least, at that swankiest of parties, the then New York big-shot had on his arm BBC newsreader Moira Stuart. And, intriguingly, she lived next door to Southend ace Steve Tilson. If a deal was to be done, it’d have to be quick. And so it was that Trump, Stewart, Tilson and Quentin were locked in Archer’s bedroom thrashing out the details of a proposed deal. No, seriously.
Quinten takes up the story:
“It was truly bizarre and I still question myself now as to how it all unfolded. I’d won Southend in a card game from Mike and Bernie Winters and didn’t really have the passion that the club needed. In truth, I’d always had a soft spot for Leyton Orient but didn’t dare mention it.
“Any road up, the discussions were fast-paced and we came to an agreement. Trumpy baby was ready to sign on the dotted line and become the new owner but he had one tricky stipulation — he wanted to play in goal!
“We explained that this would be like asking Moira to take on George Formby in a ukulele-off — but he wouldn’t listen. He was adamant. I knew we were close to losing the deal of the century — the Donster had agreed on a price of $18million, at least £17.5million over the odds — and I rang manager Dave Webb.
“Webby was furious at the suggestion of Trump as his No.1. ‘He’s more of a No.2,’ he quipped. Scatological gags aside, he would have none of it. When I threatened him with the sack with the promise of hiring a ‘yes man’ to sweeten the deal, he reminded me he still had in his safe snaps of the time me, Sam Fox and George Best ****** ** ***** ** **** ************ ** **** (this passage has been excluded for legal reasons). So, you see I couldn’t possibly let that get out into the public domain. My wife at the time, Fay Kanoos, would have gone spare. Trumpster was whimpering by now but he wouldn’t budge, the deal fell flat. I often think what could have happened had Southend been owned by the president of the US of A. Oh, well – up the O’s.”