The real-life tales of a football writer
Greetings from sunny Stockholm, capital of Sweden. I was travelling for most of last week, meeting interesting types.
I'm seeing Jesper Blomqvist again later; we're halfway through a four-hour interview, having watched the Milanese derby together last night (he used to play for the Rossoneri before joining Manchester United).
He’s invited me to watch the team he manages in Sweden’s second division tonight: they're bottom of the league and play the team above them. Tomorrow I’ll fly to Denmark to watch the red-shirted heroes at AaB.
First, though, I’ve got a bit of time to kill in a coffee shop before I meet Jesper again. If I can keep my eyes on my keyboard and not be distracted by the stream of perfect blondes walking into the establishment, I’ll give you a Perfect XI of people I’ve met on my travels in the last week, in chronological order.
1. Andrea Orlandi, the Barcelona-born Swansea City player. We met after the Swansea vs Cardiff game, at which he was on the bench. I am indebted to his girlfriend, who went to Tesco at 11pm to buy some food so that she could make a meal. They both speak good English, but the Swansea accent throws them.
2. Jordi Gomez, another Barcelona-born Swansea player, on loan from Espanyol. Andrea introduced me to him after the game in which he scored the only goal against arch-rivals Cardiff. He was friendly enough, but the significance of the moment was wasted on him.
3. Kris O’Leary, Swansea’s longest-serving player and a lifelong fan from nearby Port Talbot. Scoring the winner wouldn't have been wasted on him, but he didn’t make the squad against Cardiff. Kris is a great lad; Swansea fans should chip in and have a statue of him made by the Swansea Jack pub.
Kris O'Leary (right) gets stuck in for his beloved Jacks
4. Ian Rush, the former Chester, Juventus, Newcastle and Wales striker. I found myself sat next to him in the pressroom at Swansea. He was very friendly, so I didn't tell him that I used to stand on the Stretford End singing “Oh we’d like to know where Rush got his nose from” (to the tune of The Hues Corporation’s soul classic Rock the Boat), nor that for much of the 1980s I hated him more than any individual on Earth.
5. Matt, the lad who designed the covers for the first three Oasis albums. He’s from Wigan and supports the Latics. When the team played at Springfield Park, he went home and away, but he and his mates now find the whole Premiership experience a turn-off.
6. James Brown, who I mentioned last week. The former Loaded editor was hoping that his beloved Leeds would be drawn with the European champions in the next round of whatever the League Cup is called these days: “It’ll be great, we’ll bring thousands and I think we’ll give you a real go. We’ve got a good team.”
They'd bring far, far more than the few hundred Middlesbrough fans who made it to Old Trafford last Tuesday. Now that Leeds no longer appears as an option on his favourite computer game, he chooses to play as Tottenham as they also play in white and have several ex-Leeds players.
But Leeds weren't paired with United in Saturday’s draw, as United don’t get interesting cup draws these days.
7. Joyce Woolridge, the Mancunian writer who wrote Brian McClair’s season diary a decade ago and lives on the same Bristol street as one of Massive Attack in a house full of books. She writes for When Saturday Comes and has written for United We Stand for 13 years.
She was saying what a gent the former Man United and Scotland striker Joe Jordan is and admiring the cuts on his suits, which she thinks he picked up while playing for Milan. I think she fancies him.
8. Trevor, the Dagenham and Redbridge secretary. I was driving through Dagenham towards Grays on the Thames Estuary when I decided to pop in unannounced. He probably thought I was a burglar, but he was friendly and gave me an update on his club, who are flying high in League 2.
9. Paul Parker, the former Fulham, QPR, Man United and England defender. He welcomed me to his manor in Essex ahead of doing a feature with him on Setanta’s coverage of the Grays vs Stevenage game. I left a notepad and a book at his house; at 7.45am the following morning he called to ask where I wanted it posting.
10. Peter Taylor, the former England manager. At Grays I followed him up a ladder overlooking suburban back gardens into a television gantry.
11. A Southend United groundsman. I had time to kill so took a look at Canvey Island and then Southend. I walked in an open door at Roots Hall and said “Alright mate.” He grunted but didn’t tell me to leave. On the nearby seafront, stalls sold whelks and jellied eels by the world’s longest pier.
Sub: Bojan Djordjic, the former Man United player now playing for AIK Stockholm in Sweden. He swore like a trooper but was very friendly. He’s currently injured so we met at the AIK game yesterday in Stockholm, where he talked about United, Rangers, Red Star Belgrade and Plymouth.
Another lad came up to me in a pub last night and said: “Do you speak English, mate?” He was a Plymouth fan who had arrived in Stockholm that day. Why do I keep bumping into people associated with Plymouth Argyle?
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Great blog as always Andy, good read.
One thing however, I dont remember Paul Parker as being a Striker !
I was thinking you might have been disappointed you missed the Espanyol v Barcelona derby, but it seems like you have had an entertaining week anyway.
Sorry Andy, generally I also enjoy your work as both a 'blogger' on the web and as a journalist in fourfourtwo magazine.
But I do have a complaint, in your recent interview with Eric Cantona you have included my question but under the name of Terry Bentley! Now normally I wouldn't mind but since this is the first time I've ever been printed in a national magazine, I wouldn't mind if my name was correct!
The correct name was as guessed darjay, or my actual name of Daniel Gayle.
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