The real-life tales of a football writer
It hasn’t been the most relaxing week of my life, not that my workload mattered one bit to the former United player and European Cup winner Paddy Crerand.
I fixed it for Paddy to appear in a United fans’ area by the beach in Barcelona. I’ve known him for over 15 years and wrote his autobiography with him last year. It was a great experience listening to the story of his life, his views and watching Paddy and wife Noreen – a former Gorbals beauty queen – argue in the kitchen about what film they watched on their first date. The final edition ran to 290 pages. It would have been twice that had I included all his swearing.
On Wednesday, I told Paddy to get a taxi into central Barcelona to meet me. “I’m not doing that, I can’t speak the language,” he said, “you’ll have to come and get me.” He’s always saying how much he’d love to speak Spanish and given that he’s holidayed in Majorca in each of the last 43 years, he’s had plenty of chances.
So I got a metro to the players’ hotel where he was staying on the outskirts of Barcelona, which took an hour I didn’t have. As the tracksuited Rooney, Rio and Ronaldo walked past, I called up to Paddy’s room from reception.
“You’ll have to come and get me,” he said. “I can’t work out how to use the lift. It’s far too fancy for me, this hotel.” I baulked at that one and he obviously mastered the technology because five minutes later he was there wearing a warm jumper to combat the Catalan sun.
We took a taxi to the fans’ area by the Olympic Port where 1000 United fans were listening to Manchester music while enjoying the beer and sunshine. As we left the taxi and heard the Stone Roses playing, Paddy had chance to ask: “Do you lot really like this, what’s wrong with Sinatra?”
10 seconds later he was recognised and mobbed. Everyone wanted a piece of him and his patterned jumper. It was like going for a walk with the Pope in Glasgow’s East End, an area he knows well as he’s from the nearby Gorbals. Spanish journalists asked: “Who is he? Why does everybody love him?”
Paddy: Mesmerising United fans, bemusing Spanish journalists
The spectacle was interesting to observe, because Paddy is a great people person. He posed for hundreds of photos and signed as many autographs. He had mobile phones thrust to his ear and got instructed to “talk to John” or “talk to my wife.” He obliged every request without complaint.
United fans would say thing to him like: “Do you remember me? I saw you on Washway Road in Sale in ’87. Near the Wimpy.” Or, “My uncle Brian says hello. Brian Jones. He was on a plane with you to Mallorca the week after we beat Juventus in ‘99” or “You knew my auntie Mary from Donegal. She said you were a rascal when you were a boy.”
Paddy would nod along, glad-handing and actually remembering some of the people and incidents. He’s like Sir Alex Ferguson for this. I finally got him into an office where he could sit down and have a glass of water before we went on stage. I was asked to introduce Paddy and tried to conduct an interview but the crowd had taken control and just wanted Paddy to sing.
There was a problem. He can’t. This woman, a contestant from Bulgarian Pop Idol has a better voice. But Paddy, despite not knowing the words, had a go
The United fans loved his efforts and it was just a shame that Ronaldo didn’t put a little more of Pat’s viva into his penalty kick…
What song was it? I'd love to hear him belt out Fools Gold. Well, he couldn't be any worse than Ian Brown is nowadays...
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