The real-life tales of a football writer
I’m currently interviewing people for my next book, an as yet untitled tome about Manchester United in the 1990s which will be published next autumn.
When I’ve got 11 in-depth interviews on record, I’ll sail into the sunset on a ship called Dignity armed with a laptop and write it between January and May 2009.
I wrote a similar one called ‘We’re The Famous Man United’ about United in the 80s, where I spent at least three hours each with 11 former players, from Bryan Robson to Gordon McQueen, Billy Garton to Gary Bailey.
I chose each on account of their great anecdotes and life stories rather than solely on their footballing ability. Some of the best chapters were with lesser players, like Garton whose rollercoaster of a life story had bigger inclines than most, or Clayton Blackmore who, three hours into a four-hour interview, said that he’d never told his father he loved him and that he was going to do it soon.
I wasn’t expecting that.
Blackmore: "This one's for you dad"
Or Gordon McQueen, who took me on the beer for the day in Yarm. When his lovely wife picked us up at 5pm to take me back to the train station, she said:
“You’ve been drinking.”
“I’m allowed, it’s the close season,” he replied.
“But you haven’t played for 20 years,” she countered.
McQueen was outstanding company and told me stories like the one where he was rooming with Kevin Moran in London’s Royal Lancaster, the night before flying to Majorca for a week’s break with United.
The Irish defender was lying on his bed busy with a telephone conversation as McQueen walked out of the bathroom wearing just a towel. The big Scot positioned his backside close to the face of the distracted Moran and removed the towel before attempting to squeeze out a "wee fart" while announcing "Kop a bit of that."
But McQueen involuntarily followed through, spraying the Republic of Ireland defender’s face with warm excrement. Moran did not immediately realise what had happened, before emitting a loud “Aaaarghhh!” then shouting: "You dirty b*st*rd, you dirty, dirty b*st*rd." Moran’s pained cries were heard by the rest of the team, much to their delight.
The book was great fun to do and from the feedback I had the players enjoyed it too. Frank Stapleton helped promote it by signing copies and another player bought 20 copies to give to friends. And then there was John Gidman, the most mental of a mental bunch. He still calls from his den in the south of Spain.
United in the 90s was very different to the 80s and so it was always going to be more difficult getting players. Whereas the 80s lads appreciated the money (not their main reason for giving the interviews), most of the 90s lads don’t have to worry about their finances. I’ve approached 10 players so far and every single one has agreed to it. I’m surprised and delighted.
Most of the 80s players still live in or around Manchester (though Garton is in California and Bailey in South Africa), whereas the 90s players are spread far and wide. One lives in Moscow, another just called from Kuala Lumpur airport to say that he’s up for it. He likes his tropical destinations, this kid. Another flies to the Ukraine tomorrow and will return next week so we can meet in Spain.
Again, I’ve gone for those who I think have the most interesting stories and are in a position to tell them, people I know and I would like to think trust me. Two emailed back (well, one got his secretary to do it) to say that they are happy to appear in the book but don’t want paying.
They are still earning a Premiership wage playing, but they are entitled to be paid for their time like anyone else. One wants to talk towards the end of the season as his job is rather exacting, another next month.
"Blomqvist: "Going so soon? But I know this great little Italian..."
I’ve done three interviews so far, with Jesper Blomqvist the most recent. He was very generous with his time in Stockholm recently where I spent a couple of days with him. At midnight on the second day I considered my work complete, when Jesper said: “I know a good Italian café we can go to – and an Iranian place after that if we’re not finished.”
Jesper Blomqvist was fascinating and not only because he was so honest. Don’t ever think that fame and fortune makes for an easy life. I want to write more here but that really defeats the object of doing the book and I doubt my publisher, who is paying for me to travel far and wide, would be too pleased. Still, I intend to keep you posted with bits of information.
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Good luck with it Andy, i was thinking David May would tell a great story and would surely agree to do it. I was wondering as well what made you think of John Gidman? Did you know how mad he was before the interview? That was by far the best part of your original book.
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