The real-life tales of a football writer
It’s 7am at Liverpool airport. I was due to take off back to Barcelona five minutes ago but the pilot informed passengers that there was smoke at the back of the plane and that we had to return to the terminal.
As fire engines surrounded the aircraft, one passenger observed: “It’s probably something to do with those terrorists killing people in hotels on the news.”
Stupid people rarely fail to lighten up my life.
I’m also cheered by some of the other passengers wearing Liverpool colours. As they walked through the wind and the rain back to the terminal, I wondered whether they really had hope in their hearts after last night’s 0-0 draw at home to West Ham.
Or whether their team, despite being top of the league, are simply not good enough to be champions for the first time since 1642.
For no obvious reason, I can’t get England’s 1982 World Cup song out of my head. It started as I left Manchester this morning at 5.15am. There was no cue.
The harrowing subject of Baby P was dominating the radio, so had I started singing Baby D’s Let Me Be Your Fantasy it would have been understandable. But no, I began with: “We’re on our way, we are Ron’s 22. Hear the roar of the red, white and blue.”
By Merseyside and the "Welcome to Knowsley – the New, New York" signs, I was humming the B-side, a tuneful melody called We’ll Fly The Flag.
I loved that record as a nine-year-old and I wondered, like a Hampstead-dwelling Guardian columnista who seldom strays north of Finchley, why my boyish enthusiasm for the fortunes of my national team has long since dissipated into indifference.
When Mitten was a boy, and men were tuneful
I’ve been getting used to the early starts. I was up at 7am in Barcelona on Saturday morning to write, and at 6am in Cardiff on Sunday in the house of Dave Jones, one of the main men in Cardiff’s Soul Crew.
The Bluebirds played rivals Swansea on Sunday at 11.15am so it necessitated an early start as Jones and his mates met for a breakfast in the dark, near the soon-to-be-condemned Ninian Park. There was a lot to write about – and not just because of the superb game, which finished 2-2.
After I’d watched the Manchester derby, I drove to Manchester ahead of an interview with Robinho on Monday at Macclesfield Town’s ground (don't ask).
I’d never visited the Welsh Valleys so I went via Neath, Merthyr and Ebbw Vale. Crunching credit times or not, don’t book two weeks there next July, though the nearby Brecon Beacons looked brilliantly bleak and imposing.
Macc's ground Moss Rose (Robinho not pictured)
On the way, I listened to 606 with Alan Green. For years I’ve stayed clear of the near-worthless opinions aired on there, but I was struck by how cringeworthy every Manchester United fan sounded. It’s little wonder that our fanbase is so loathed.
So to Robinho, who bounded into the room like an energy-packed tornado. Why had that bounce been so absent the day before in the derby? The Brazilian's not short of confidence and couldn’t sit still.
He told me that he’s studying for his bus driver’s licence and aims to get a job on the buses in Stoke-on-Trent when his career is over. With Ji Sung Park training to be a bus conductor, they'd make an unlikely double on the streets of Burslem.
Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo were also there as a Nike advert was being filmed, so I got the latter in a headlock and rubbed his gelled mop with my knuckles, making him say: “I might be European Footballer of the Year, but I will not solve Madrid’s injury crisis” over and over again in a Mancunian accent.
Perhaps it would have been wiser to do that to Tevez instead, but would you fancy getting that mane in a headlock?
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Good blog as always. I'm a fellow Manchester United fan and I always love reading your blogs. But did you seriously get Ronaldo to do that?
Was Moss Rose what Robinho had in mind I wonder? And yes what about Ronaldo?
Andy, why didn't you just boot Ronnie up the backside instead?! Although putting him in a "headlock" sounds alright I suppose....your powers of sarcasm are to be admired Mr Mitten!!
I agree with you re: 606, though its not just United fans that sound like complete mongs, the average caller on that show sounds like they started watching fooball around 3 years ago. I somehow envision them sitting on their sofas wearing their replica tops and venting their spleens to the king of the scousers, sorry, I mean Alan Green.
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