The real-life tales of a football writer
Anderson’s less than spectacular form in a Manchester United shirt may have an explanation.
I was in a Brazilian restaurant in Manchester last Tuesday, taking advantage of their £12 all-you-can-eat lunchtime menu, when the portoalegrense ambled in with Nani.
My publisher had come up from That London for a meeting. How Cockney Media does that sound?
But that’s what happened, so I should report the facts, rather than pretend I was re-enacting scenes from Kes by a disused coal pit.
There was a time when my mates would dismiss anyone I introduced if they happened to work in the media and live in London.
“Cockney Media” was their dismissive put-down and they were appalled when I moved to live in London for a year in 1998.
They spread vicious rumours that I’d starting rollerblading to work (despite me working from home) and drinking coffee sat at a table IN THE STREET!
"What happens when it rains, cocker?"
My dad was just as bad. He refused to come to the capital to see me “in case I get mugged on them trains that go underground.”
I could see where he got it from – grandad hasn’t been to London since going to watch his brother in the 1948 FA Cup final.
He’s suspicious of anyone who doesn’t spend their days in a bookies in Manchester and had a serious word with me after moving to Barcelona.
“You mix with foreigners now don’t you?” he said with a conspirational tone before adding the following advice: “Never trust the Italians - they can’t fight. At least the Germans had a go.”
Grandad swept the Normandy landings in a minesweeper before D-Day and finished the war in Antwerp.
I was once sent there to write a piece and called him from the beautiful main square of Belgium’s second city.
Grandma later told me that he shed a tear as he remembered his mates on the sister ship who hit a mine just outside Antwerp and died – two days before the end of the war.
As it’s impossible to work in the media and not associate with anyone who lives in London, I’ve always tried to be more balanced - in spite of some of the Nathan Barley-type CMs I’ve come across.
You know, the ones who decide that they’re going to be a Manchester United fan and tell their mates in advertising and the city about it for 18 months until they move onto rollerblading, playing Frisbee in Regent’s Park and not eating gravy, or whatever CMs get up to these days.
I’ll never tire of arriving in London, but I’m always happy to leave and I try to arrange meetings which would normally happen in Soho in Manchester.
That’s why my (AFC Wimbledon-supporting) publisher ended up sat with his back to Nani and Anderson, eating cow.
Two years ago, Manchester didn’t have one Brazilian restaurant. Now, thanks to the influx of footballers like Robinho, Elano, Anderson and the Da Silvas, it has four.
You have a little card on your table, which is green on one side and red on the other.
Green means that you want the waiters to keep coming to your table with meat, red that you don’t.
Anderson always gave the green light. Still, it was pleasing to see them left alone to feast because they would have been mobbed in other cities.
The following night, I watched Anderson from the away end at Turf Moor. He was as insipid as most of his team-mates, probably because he still had half a beast in his system.
The Burnley fans, as you would expect, enjoyed beating Manchester United. We were surrounded by three sides of unabated happiness and despite being angered at the United performance, it was hard to begrudge them.
Burnley have an inspiring history and superb support for the size of the town – though they’ve picked up 7,000 glory-hunters for this season.
United fans mocked them by singing: “We’ve got one stand bigger than your ground.”
Not only that, the entire population of the town could fit inside Old Trafford.
"Aye, let the big-city buggers come"
Yet I can remember Burnley taking 40,000 to Wembley in 1988 and another time, driving home from an away game at Derby County.
Burnley, then in the Fourth Division, had played somewhere in the East Midlands, yet there were as many Burnley fans on the road home as United.
The night before the Burnley debacle, I travelled to Merseyside to watch my brother play.
I went with Steve Tobin, who played in the 1992 FA Youth Cup winning side for Leeds United. He also partnered Eric Cantona up front in his first game for Leeds reserves.
“Tobs” regaled me with stories of his time at Leeds.
Howard Wilkinson made him stay behind after training and pick up all the golf balls he’d hit on the training pitch behind Elland Road.
The following day, Wilkinson called to see him, where Tobs finally found him relaxing in the bath.
As a further punishment for being sent off in a youth team game, Wilkinson instructed Tobs to individually wash all the golf balls he'd collected.
Since then, Tobs has enjoyed a decent semi-pro career and he’s just followed our Joz to Prescot Cables.
Joz reckons that Tobs doesn’t bother with pre-season and only decides who he’s going to play for when the season gets underway.
He loves playing with him because he delivers the ball from midfield to his feet rather than eight foot in the air.
Joz scored 32 goals in five months in 2007 thanks to Tobs, and the wily old pair reckon that they can repeat the trick on Merseyside.
Before they know it, City could be back on Merseyside making unwanted advances and putting a £65 million bid for the pair – a million for each year of their combined age.
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I'm from Flixton too and in my mid 40s but wouldn't leave Manchester. Sad may be, but I love Manchester and going to watch United every home game.
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