The real-life tales of a football writer
Two men stood in the street by my house looking confused last Friday afternoon.
Wearing Lacoste t-shirts and small enamel badges, I figured that they were English football fans in Barcelona to watch the Andorra game. I offered to help as they struggled over a map by the metro they’d just exited.
Through a mixup of names, they were miles from where they wanted to be. It wasn’t like getting a train to Liverpool Street and thinking it was Liverpool, but Gracia station to Passeig de Gracia is longer than the trek to the away end at Aldershot.
We got talking as I showed them the way. Jason and Chris were Plymouth Argyle fans who also watch England home and away. It’s not often you get members of the famous Green Army marching through the streets of Gracia. I’d last seen Plymouth when they beat Sunderland two years ago and then manager Ian Holloway offered to buy every one of the travelling fans a pint. Loads took him up on his offer.
The fans offered to buy me a beer for pointing them on their way, but we arranged to meet later, away from the dire, overpriced Irish bars of Calle Ferran by La Rambla where most visiting British football fans gather. Whisper it quietly, but I'd rather a night with proper fans than the En-ger-land tabloid pack.
The Plymouth fans told stories of 10 hour bus trips to Ipswich, two-day away games in the north east, banning orders, Argyle goalscoring legend Tommy Tynan being a taxi driver in Plymouth, the Pilgrim fathers and their rivalries with Bristol City and Exeter.
The following day, they joined the other 10,000 England fans (and 14,000 Coldplay devotees who performed next door to the Olimpic Stadium while England laboured) while I managed 60 minutes for Manchester La Fianna in a 6-1 victory at Sitges, our first pre-season friendly.
Our goalkeeper is a Manchester City fan who hails from Wythenshawe and flies back for plenty of matches so he was feeling happy at this season’s City takeover, which naturally had United fans talking.
United We Stand’s website registered its busiest ever time last week and I had a lot of work writing pieces about the likely effects on the Manchester rivalry and calls from Spanish radio stations to explain just who Manchester City were. Cheers, City.
United’s biggest game remains Liverpool, not City, and the 18 times champions (them) meet the 17 times champions (us) at Anfield on Saturday. There’s been a lot of interest in Mad For It, partly as the first chapter is about Liverpool vs United. That’s meant interviews from Sweden in the north to Tenerife in the south.
Scousers will no doubt delight in the news that Jamie Carragher’s new autobiography has knocked Mad For It off the top of the football charts. I’m not surprised though given the success of his mate Gerrard’s book. Autobiographies of Liverpool players are far more frank and easily outsell those of United players.
I won’t be at Anfield as I’ll be watching Barça’s first home game against Racing, followed by the visit of Sporting Lisbon and work travels in a few weeks to Swansea vs Cardiff, Grays vs Stevenage (I’ll explain that one nearer the time), a big game in Stockholm followed by an interview with Jesper Blomqvist, then Aalborg vs United in Denmark.
But first, I need to pin down Villarreal’s press officer for that interview with Giuseppe Rossi she has been promising for six days…
In the wake of Croatia losing 4-1 can I be the first to ironically say I have always rated England, never slagged them off and that Theo Walcott is boy wonder Michael Own version 2? I wonder how the papers will portray tonights events....
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