The real-life tales of a football writer
An unusual week so far. A first trip to Saudi Arabia watching Manchester United in a friendly, which Sir Alex Ferguson’s side lost 3-2 to local big timers Al Hilal in the capital Riyadh. The £1 million which United received should sweeten the defeat, a fee Barcelona and Real Madrid turned down because they felt it would compromise their players. The Spanish giants don’t have a debt the size of United’s to service…
I write this in my hotel room as a brilliant sunrise sets the morning on fire. A Gulf Air plane comes into land nearby, but the view is otherwise forgettable. That’s because, like Alan Partridge, I’m holed up in a Travel Tavern style hotel, this one at Heston Services on the M4 (Westbound).
This was the only accommodation available after the flights from Riyadh yesterday. I hadn't reserved a hotel because I was supposed to travel on a £29 ‘bargain berth’ night sleeper between Euston and Glasgow ahead of a Celtic v Rangers league game. The plan was to have two days in Glasgow covering it for FourFourTwo’s ‘More Than A Game’ feature, until the Old Firm match was postponed for the second time in 18 days. That meant more money lost on planes, trains and hotel rooms.
Despite the disappointment, my overriding emotions are tiredness and relief that the Saudi trip went well. As well as writing, I had to make a video diary for Channel M in Manchester (Sky channel 203). Except I didn’t inform the Saudi authorities that I was a journalist on my visa application since that would have meant a rejection. I was nervous at explaining my video camera and computer to their ultra keen immigration officials, but the worry was unnecessary as the trip passed without incident for me and the 17 travelling United fans – the club’s smallest ever away following.
That’s if you call being introduced to a man who has a Manchester United tattoo on his penis as passing without incident...
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