Premiership Roundup: The Russians are coming...

Last updated : 02 January 2006 By Aidan O'Byrne
Well, I was myself indebted to Google and the BBC Weather website for the information that "the record for being [successively] struck by lightning is held by … Sullivan (aka the 'human lightning conductor') who survived seven strikes between 1942 and 1977. In his various encounters he had his hair set alight, lost his big toe nail and eyebrows and suffered injuries to his arms, legs, chest and stomach." Are you with me yet?

Well, I discovered his details as a result of the news announced today that Portsmouth have agreed terms with a Russian billionaire, one Alexandre Gaydamak, to become joint owner of the club along with Milan Mandaric, which caused me to look up the stats. According to the US Geological Survey, the chances of being struck by lightning during your life are a surprisingly low one in 28,500, but it now seems that the odds of your Premiership club being owned by a dodgy Russian oligarch with links to organised crime have fallen to an even more staggeringly low one in ten.

Aside from thinking that this news, coming on the back of Redknapp's defection, may be enough to cause Saints fans to suffer aneurisms (I can fully empathise here, after all it was only by the slenderest of chances that idiotic Spurs chairman Levy turned away a then less well known Ambramovic's advances), it seems to me that this development could compound the "death of football" arguments increasingly laid at Chelsea's door, albeit that so far it doesn't seem to have helped Pompey much on the field.

Roy survived no less than seven repeated lightning strikes while on active duty, but in the end took his own life, allegedly because he felt life held no beauty any more. What chance have we got if we're in this state just as the thunder from strike number two rolls out across the leagues?

Of course, I may be doing Gaydamak a disservice, and to be strictly accurate it's his dad Arcadi who is the billionaire rather than young Alexandre. However, the initial signs aren't good because Arcadi seems if anything less reputable than Abramovic, who whatever you might believe about the provenance of his fortune has never actually been criminally indicted in connection with it. By contrast, Gaydamak senior, although Russian born, was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the French authorities a couple of years ago in connection with illegal arms dealing into Angola (which warrant was endorsed by the British authorities at Bow Street Magistrates Court). At the time, he couldn't be touched, as he'd coincidentally moved into non-extraditable exile in Israel along with his French, Israeli, Canadian and Angolan passports (wonder how he came by the latter of these?), and in the end the fall guy for the affair was another "great man's son", Jean-Christophe Mitterand, who got two and a half years as the only man in sight whom the prosecutors could actually charge (HIS dad, as the former head of state, and not being before an Iraqi court, had immunity).

Gaydamak, of course, maintains that he's a strictly legitimate international arms dealer – an oxymoron to truly rival "military intelligence" or "Spurs title hopes"! – but it will be interesting indeed to see if either the FA or the Civil Service actually do some proper checks to establish whether he is, as required by regulations, a "fit and proper person" to be both a company director and a part-owner of a football club. Is there anyone out there who works near Covent Garden and could therefore easily pop along to Bow Street and check whether that warrant has ever been rescinded?

Aside from these developments, there's been a welcome glut of football to keep us going through the wreckage of turkey curries and stale mince pies, but I'm sure you already knew that Chelsea have kept going despite the Hammers' best efforts, while the other form team of recent weeks, Liverpool, won further local pride by stuffing Everton but finally stuttered at Bolton, meaning that tomorrow's match between Arsenal and Man United can only serve as a shadow of its former title-deciding self. The transfer window is now open, but if there are any bargains to be had in the sales for those that have been queuing dutifully, we'll have to watch out that that nice Mr Kenyon and his Gold Card don't get there first.

I wonder would Roy Sullivan, if of course he'd been into "soccer", have found this enough to keep him looking forward, to venture out into the storm with hope in his heart and in his best waxed jacket?