Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Hair-raising Evening

I had the great pleasure of travelling to Funtasia in the Dromore Industrial Park just outside Drogheda on Tuesday night in order to glean wisdom and insight from the mouth of John Delaney, who was there to launch a book on the history of Drogheda United.

Fair play to John, he did throw me gristly morsel of a scoop in the news that a third 'wise man' was to be appointed to the FAI's crack team of international manager headhunters, before Ray Houghton's employers, RTE and The Star, served up the juicier fillet of the actual identity of the new man the next morning.

Delaney seems like a nice fellow. He's certainly well regarded by the grassroots types that were gathered in Drogheda; though I think the event organisers were delighted just to have someone of repute to headline the evening, otherwise the irksome, ginger-bearded town mayor would have been the main man, and no one wanted that.

Far from the Machiavellian political animal of reknown, whose skill in the committee room as he finessed his way to the top of the FAI tree sees him generally portrayed as more Richelieu than Richmond Park, Delaney came across rather normal off-record.

He enthused about his esteemed guest Michel Platini, whom he would shortly afterwards join for a sumptuous banquet back in Dublin. Perhaps there he would point out to Platini that, only a short time ago it was cocktail sausages and ham sandwiches in Funtasia in Drogheda, and that, Michel, see, was the secret of his power: knowing the time for foie gras and the time for fish fingers.

On record he was admittedly, a walking advertisement for whichever PR consultancy firm was brought in to transform the image of the FAI from Keano-baiting chancers of yore to that Blairite smoothocrat thing that everyone from the manager of your local petrol station to the CEO of your local multi-national does these days.

It's all about those hand gestures that say "I'm serving these eye-catching initiatives to you like a pastor would serve the host to his flock, dear child", the hands always moving forward to underline the progressiveness of these fabulous words, but never forming off-putting fists or jabbing fingers.

The omnipresent "going forward" peppers the content, as does "it is important that we remember...", another nod to the vicarspeak that did so well for Tony Blair.

But there were no outward signs of the bungling incompetence of which his battalion of critics often accuse him: he didn't insult anyone; trip on any carpet while walking up to the stage; he didn't declare how great it was to be here in Athlone; his flies were resolutely closed.

In fact that only vestige of haplessness the man offered up was his now notorious hairdo. Delaney has always had trouble with his barnet, a scruffy mop that looks as appropriate to its environment as a Romany halting site on a roundabout. The latest look, which you might have seen on the news yesterday, was a cross between pudding bowl chic and Roman slaveboy.

Clearly, there is a clue to the man's success in the FAI in the story of his tonsorial plight. Did he, arriving at a crossroads outside of Dungarvan some years ago, meet the devil himself? And did the Dark Lord offer him the stewardship of the nation's football destiny in exchange for - no, not your soul, oh no, I have enough of them boy! - his previously stylish and immaculately coiffured hairdo?


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